Washington state

Teacher contract talks stall in several of region's districts

SEATTLE – The first day of school is uncertain for thousands of Puget Sound-area students as teachers and district officials continue to negotiate contracts.

Contract talks have stalled in several districts, including Kent, Sedro-Woolley and Lake Stevens.

Everett teachers and district officials, however, announced on their Web sites Saturday that they had reached a tentative contract agreement.

The agreement sets Sept. 9 as the first day of school for more than 18,000 students in the Everett School District, according to district’s Web site.

More than 175 districts in the state have teacher contracts due this year. About 100 are unresolved.

“As each day passes, you know, there’s less and less time to reach a settlement before school, and in places where there is a strike deadline, that’s something that they need to take into consideration,” Washington Education Association spokesman Rich Wood told Seattle public radio station KUOW.

In Kent, teachers voted Wednesday to go on strike. A teachers union representative told KUOW that students will return to school, which starts Monday, only if both sides agree by Sunday morning.

In Sedro-Woolley, mediation will resume Sunday evening between the district and teachers after contract talks stalled Friday. School begins Wednesday for the district, which has 280 teachers and about 4,300 students.

In Lake Stevens, teachers voted Thursday to go on strike unless they have a new contract before school starts Sept. 8.

“We will return to work only when we have a ratified new contract,” Kelly Snow, president of the Lake Stevens Education Association told the Everett Herald.

The next negotiation meeting is Tuesday. The teachers’ contract expires Monday.

The Lake Stevens School District said both sides have agreed on 45 issues, but remain divided on pay increases, class size and planning time.

“We’re still far apart on economic issues,” district spokeswoman Arlene Hulten told the Everett Herald.

In Everett, the school district said on its Web site that it would not release details of the tentative contract agreement until after the teachers’ association meeting Wednesday.

In a message left on the teachers union bargaining hot line Saturday, Kim Mead, president of the Education Teachers Association, said members will vote on the contract next week.