Teachers approve 3-year contract

By Sara Bruestle | Sep 04, 2013

Teachers on Wednesday approved a tentative three-year contract with the Mukilteo School District that focuses on class size for special education.

Large class sizes and cuts in state funding, which have been growing issues for many school districts in the state in recent years, impeded bargaining to improve the student-to-teacher ratio for all students.

Mukilteo has also seen high enrollment growth in the last five years, which adds to concerns.

“Until our district can pass a bond to build more classroom space, and until our state lives up to its paramount duty to fully fund public education, we are hampered in our ability to bargain more stringent language around class size,” said Dana Wiebe, president of the Mukilteo Education Association.

Instead, the union bargained to address class size through added paraeducator support in special education classrooms and for more time for those teachers to complete federally required paperwork.

The tentative agreement passed with a 97 percent vote in a union meeting on Aug. 28. It will go to the Mukilteo School Board on Sept. 9 for approval, said district spokesperson Andy Muntz. The current contract expired on Friday.

Already approved are key school calendar dates for 2013-14.

School is scheduled to start today. Winter break is set for Dec. 23-Jan. 3 and spring break for April 7-11. The last day of school will be June 12.

Also in the teacher’s contract is added time for educators to collaborate on the new Common Core State Standards and align their practices with a new teacher evaluation system, which are recent state mandates.

It also raises salaries 2 percent to cover increases in the cost of living, and improves teacher compensation and personal leave.

“We are pleased to work in a district that listens to the concerns of members, and works hard to collaborate on issues,” Wiebe said. “We look forward to a great year ahead.”

Wiebe said the teacher’s union is still concerned, however, about class sizes.

“Research shows the best practice in teaching is to individualize your instruction,” she said. “The bigger the classes are, the harder it is to teach every child at the level to where they need to be.”

The Mukilteo School District has been forced to restrict out-of-district enrollment at several schools due to capacity issues.

It was also the only sizable district to recently qualify for state funding to reduce classroom sizes, but have to decline it due to lack of classroom space, Muntz said.

Mukilteo’s projected enrollment increase between 2007 and 2013 was 400 students; however the district saw an increase of 550 students. That’s enough to fill another elementary school.

It is forecast that schools will see an increase of 350 more students in the next five years.

If Mukilteo is to improve class sizes, it will have to rely on taxpayers to OK a bond, Muntz said.

Voters may see a construction bond on the February ballot to build a new school. If it passes, a building could be ready for students as soon as 2016.

“Anticipating that and knowing the urgency of the situation, we have already hired an architect to do some preliminary design work,” for a new school, Muntz said.

A bond asking voters to fund the construction of a new school was put on the ballot in 2008 but failed to get the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass.

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