Kent School District, teachers reach contract agreement as new school year begins

The Kent Education Association (KEA), the union which represents teachers in the Kent School District, approved a two-year contract on Tuesday, just in time for the start of school on Thursday.

The Kent School Board voted 4-0 to authorize the contract at a special meeting on Wednesday evening.

KEA members approved the proposed contract, which runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2019, with an 86 percent vote.

Last year, the district and KEA agreed to a one-year contract instead of a typical multiyear contract. The primary reason for the shorter-than-normal contract was uncertainty in future state funding as the Legislature worked to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, officials said.

A nearly $7 million budget shortfall for the district complicated this year’s contract negotiations, KEA president Christie Padilla said.

“The district’s financial issues became a significant impediment to getting what we all know you work hard to earn,” Padilla said in a letter to KEA members posted on the organization’s Facebook page on Tuesday night. “Due to the budget deficit, the bargaining team tried to bargain gains that did not cost money. One of those areas was the control of time. The guarantee of two hours of employee-directed time during half of the new early release Wednesdays was a big part of that discussion.”

Earlier this year, the district announced a new Learning First schedule, which includes early release days on most Wednesdays to allow for teacher development.

The proposed contract includes a 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase approved by the state Legislature for the 2017-2018 school year. Salary increases for the 2018-19 school year will be the maximum allowed based on the Seattle Consumer Price Index.

The new contract also addresses safety concerns raised by teachers in the past few years.

“After some improvements last year, there are even more improvements this year,” Padilla said in the letter. “A clear protocol will be in place when a member is assaulted and if an agreement can’t be reached at the building level, then a district-level administrator will spend time in the classroom and support a resolution that is best for the employee and the student.”

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