Union holds demonstration on eve of mediation with school district

Spokane Education Association (SEA) members picketed outside the Spokane Public Schools office on Thursday.

The demonstration comes a day before the educators union and school district enter mediation, which are face-to-face meetings with a third-party mediator to help the two sides reach an agreement.

Brian Coddington, the school district’s communications director, said three mediation meetings are scheduled. Both sides have been negotiating for some time, but this will be the first time a third-party will be involved in contract talks.

The major point of contention is the allocation of funds for Spokane Public Schools from the McClearly ruling of 2012, which designates $27.7 million of state funds to the school district for salaries.

SEA is demanding all of the funds go toward salary increases: $20 million for certificated staff (such as teachers and counselors) and $7.7 million for workers paid hourly.

Coddington said several state laws complicate matters.

"It's made more difficult by a new set of state regulations that come with some guidelines, but not really very solid interpretations of those guidelines,” he said.

SEA President Katy Henry said the union is keeping its financial demands heading into tomorrow’s mediation. She also addressed growing concerns that negotiations could affect school. Classes start district-wide next week, August 30.

"We don't anticipate at this point that it will affect school. It is too early to make a determination that it has gone that direction. We need to give this a real chance to work and you have to go in there with a mindset into mediation that you are there to find a solution,” Henry said.

Coddington is confident the first day of class will go as planned.

"There have been no discussions at all about interruptions to school, so we're confident. I feel like the SEA is confident as well that this is going to get resolved,” he said.

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