Tentative contract agreement reached in week-long Tacoma teachers strike

TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma Public Schools and the Tacoma Education Association announced Thursday night that they have reached a tentative contract agreement.

Teachers went on strike Sept. 6 -- which was supposed to be the first day of school -- to try to get larger pay raises than the district initially offered.

The school district  said classes are now scheduled to begin Monday, pending a positive ratification vote by the striking teachers.

The Tacoma Education Association said it will be holding a membership meeting at 11 a.m. Friday, presumably for the teachers to vote on the tentative contract.

No details about the tentative contract agreement have been released.

Bargaining units at most of the state's 295 school systems have sought to renegotiate salaries this year after the state infused $1 billion for teacher pay to resolve a long-running court battle that determined the state was inadequately funding public education.

On Wednesday, the Tacoma school district released a new offer to teachers, saying it contained over a 12% pay raise.

“If you remember, we started at 3.1 percent as our offer. We’re up to 12.45 percent,” said Dan Voelpel, spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools.

But Angel Morton, president of the Tacoma Education Association, said that number was misleading.

“The district says it’s 12 percent plus that’s not true. They’re taking money we’ve already made and rolling it into our base salary and calling it a raise,” Morton said.

Morton said the district was taking money that was associated with optional teacher work days, and instead rolling it into the base salary.

She says the union got the district’s proposal on Tuesday and presented a counter-offer around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Morton said Wednesday that the district risked burning bridges with its teachers.

“The teachers are feeling very disrespected by the district,” she said then.