School is expected to resume in Vancouver, Washington on Wednesday after teachers reached a tentative agreement for a new contract, according to a statement on the school district’s website.
The Vancouver Education Association will vote Tuesday on a new contract for teachers, counselors and other education professionals that was agreed upon by their representatives Sunday, Vancouver Public Schools said.
“Unlike other districts that only had to address teacher salaries, VEA and VPS had to negotiate an entire contract,” said VPS Superintendent Steve Webb. “I am grateful to the bargaining teams for working very hard together to come to an agreement. And, I especially want to thank our teachers and staff, parents and community members for their patience and understanding as we completed this difficult process.”
The district, which serves 24,000 students, said details of the agreement would be released after ratification.
Vancouver is one of a number of Washington school districts where educators were on strike last week. The Vancouver school district’s announcement of an agreement follows Friday’s news that teachers in Seattle had also reached a tentative deal to start school September 5 as scheduled in that district.
More than 53,000 students will also begin school Wednesday as they had planned after the Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools reached a tentative deal Friday, the district and the teacher’s union said.
The district did not make public the terms of the agreement but said one of its priorities was educators’ compensation.
“We believe our educators and support staff deserve a competitive, fair salary package and as a district we want to be able to attract and retain the very best educators for our students,” the district said in a statement.
Students in grades 1-12 are expected to begin classes Wednesday, while kindergarteners are scheduled to start September 10.
“Our staff are our heroes,” the district said.
The Seattle deal came a few days after teachers voted to give their union the power to call a strike.
The Seattle Education Association said its members will vote on the deal at a meeting next week — but the tentative deal is enough to start school as scheduled.
Other Washington students are already missing school
Disputes over salaries and benefits for teachers remain unresolved at schools in some other Washington communities.
Teachers strikes are underway at Battle Ground Public Schools, Longview Public Schools, the Hockinson School District, the Ridgefield School District, Evergreen Public Schools and the Washougal School District. The strikes prevented schools there from opening this week as planned.
In Monroe, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle, it’s not clear whether school will start as scheduled on Wednesday. Teachers there rallied this week demanding better pay.
Monroe special education teacher Michael Jones said he’s willing to go on strike if needed — not just for better salaries, but for the future education of children.
“I care for my salary and for the salaries of my colleagues as well, but beyond that, I care about the education my own children will receive in Monroe,” he said.
“This next week will literally impact the community of Monroe for generations to come because many surrounding districts have already agreed to big raises. … I’ve always believed that when we start thinking that the ‘grass is greener elsewhere’ that it is our responsibility to water our own grass and make it greener. If it takes a strike, then so be it.”
Strikes in Washington follow a wave of nationwide teacher protests last spring. Educators have demanded higher salaries and better school funding for their students to replace crumbling textbooks and archaic supplies.
Shelli Blake, a paraeducator at Vancouver Public Schools, said she understands the hardships some parents are facing due to the strike there.
“I’m sorry the teachers have ‘inconvenienced’ you by going on strike. I understand daycare needs so you can go to work,” Blake posted in an open letter to parents on Facebook.
“While teachers are on strike they will also be ‘inconvenienced’ by not getting paid, standing in the heat, bargaining with the district, and finding care of thier [sic] own children. They do this to ensure quality educators, special services, and smaller class sizes.”
And because the school year might be extended, Blake said students won’t miss out on important lessons.
“I get that extended daycare needs can be costly but with the extended school year teachers will be ‘watching’ your children at the beginning of next summer; therefore no need to pay for childcare,” she said.
She signed off her letter with the hashtag “#sorrynotsorry.”