EVERETT, Wash. -- Teacher salaries are about to get a complete overhaul in Washington state.
In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington was failing to fully fund public education. That led the Legislature in 2017 to approve $2 billion in additional funding over two years for K-12.
It’s a historic change and one that will affect the way educators are paid.
Unions are bargaining teacher salaries with district administrators to determine the exact pay increases.
But the goal is a significant spike. The Washington Education Association says they want a 15% salary increase for teachers and 37% for others like school bus drivers and teaching assistants.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Everett Education Association President Jared Kink said.
Everett teachers make the highest wages in the state followed by Mukilteo and Snohomish.
A teacher starting in Everett makes about $40,000 but can make all the way up to $103,000 after decades in the field.
If the 15% increase goes into effect, the most experienced Everett teachers could be paid about $118,000.
“Fifteen percent makes up for the loss in salary over a decade when you take a loss of a COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) year after year,” Kink said.
Kink says six-figure salaries should become the norm for many of the most experienced teachers across the state.
“They should yes -- across the country, across the state. Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia all going on strike because they have had no salary increases,” Kink said.
When asked if Everett teachers will strike if they don’t meet their goals, Kink said it’s too early to talk about that considering the negotiations have just begun.
But Kink says the competitive wages they do have now draws many teachers to Everett from other areas where educators are paid a lot less.
“Beginning teacher salaries can look like $32,000,” Federal Way teacher Shannon McCann said.
WEA says statewide an average teacher salary is about $56,000.
McCann is a Federal Way middle school teacher and she says her district lost 200 teachers last year.
“This spring break I was asked, when I was visiting family, 'Oh, flight attendants are hiring; you could do that and make more money,'" McCann said.
With cost-of-living skyrocketing, McCann says, many educators are living paycheck to paycheck.
But with a system overhau,l much could change.
“We would like to see teachers earn a higher salary earlier,” Kink said.
Bargaining could take months for many districts but union leaders say they hope to have significant pay increases kick in this fall.