This is an important issue facing the Legislature as they consider how to meet the Supreme Court mandates for the McCleary decision to fully fund basic education. The largest item on the table is teacher compensation. As it stands now, the state funds base pay for teachers defined as teaching basic education. They fund other types as well, but those are from non-basic education funds, such as Special Education, Learning Assistance Program (LAP), and other specified state grants.
All of the districts we are covering on EEN and most school districts in the Puget Sound area pay their teachers more than the state base pay. The mechanism is called “Time, Responsibility and Incentives” pay (“TRIpay”), and it is negotiated locally by each district with their local unit of the Washington Education Association (WEA). TRIpay is funded by your local levy dollars.
The total cost of this enhancement can account for as much as 30% of a teacher’s pay, over and above their state base pay. This means that for every dollar that the state increases pay, districts have to pay an additional $.30 for each teacher.
And this is where the confusion in the McCleary discussion comes into play. When legislators and lobbyists talk about compensation increases, is the intent to replace the local TRIpay with state dollars, so that districts no longer have to supplement basic education funding? Some interpret the McCleary mandate in this fashion.
But others read McCleary as holding that, as a matter of policy, teachers are not paid enough, even after considering local enhancements. Under Governor Inslee’s current budget proposal, only the state base pay for teachers would go up. This means local districts would be required to pay even more of basic education to stay in compliance with local agreements that are based on state pay.
This is why any discussions around teacher pay must consider the local levy dollar contribution, because absent a systematic overhaul of how we pay teachers, local districts will face additional financial burdens should the state raise salaries across the board.