Washington state is experiencing a major shortage of qualified teachers. There are actually several reasons, including the fact that teachers typically have numerous job opportunities. Therefore, unless specific school districts in the state can offer something extraordinary, potential recruits are going elsewhere.

Due to ongoing budget talks, pay for teachers in Washington state is simply not competitive. Although Democratic Governor Jay Inslee has proposed an increase for beginning teachers, the proposed budget by the Senate does not provide for teacher raises until perhaps next year. While the battle rages on, schools in Olympia and other areas of Washington state are struggling.

Teachers RallyTumwater is a perfect example. One of the biggest issues holding up contracts has to do with supplemental pay. Just a few days ago, teachers staged an informational picket outside of the school district’s headquarters, one of several over the past few weeks. To help with contract negotiations, the Tumwater School District along with the Tumwater Education Association agreed to jointly apply for mediation services.

Going through the state Public Employment Relations Commission, mediation services would help break through the stalemate for contract negotiations. As expressed by Kim Howard, spokeswoman for the school district, this is what things have come to.

The Tumwater Education Association represents roughly 400 teachers in a school district that has approximately 6,250 students. As stated by Tim Voie, union president, there is a significant gap in the contract and at this time, neither side is willing to budge. For that reason, the decision was made to use a formal mediation process.

Since the start of the 2016 school year, teachers in Tumwater have been working under an expired contract. In addition to the issue of supplemental pay, the other sticking point is planning time for teachers at elementary schools.

According to Voie, teachers in Tumwater actually make between $3,500 and $6,500 less that what teachers in nearby districts earn. In fact, of the 28 districts of similar size located throughout the state of Washington, Tumwater has the lowest compensation rate. While salaries for teachers are based on a state schedule, supplemental pay is negotiable.

During the 2014/2015 school district, teachers in Tumwater earned a higher level of supplemental pay compared to the four smaller school districts in Thurston County. However, they earned less supplemental pay than the two largest school districts, including Olympia School District, which currently has about 9,800 students enrolled, and North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey with approximately 14,700 students.