Kent School Board Approves Changes to Kent Education Association (KEA) Contract
Kent School District (KSD) and the Kent Education Association (KEA) reached a two-year tentative agreement that was passed by KEA members on Wednesday, August 29, 2018, and approved by the Kent School Board at a special meeting on September 5, 2018.
The new contract includes an important investment in the school district's teaching staff. The bargaining process took longer this year, given the new and complex state funding formula for staff compensation and the unique fiscal circumstances of KSD.
KSD entered the 2017-18 school year with a deficit of approximately $5.6 million. KSD Superintendent, Dr. Calvin J. Watts noted, "Our district budget recovery efforts over the last two school years included limiting central office materials budgets, restricting travel, imposing administrator furlough days, central administration reductions in force, school-based administrator reductions in force, and KEA position elimination through natural attrition. As a result, current projections show a positive ending fund balance for the 2017-18 school year, due to the combined efforts of our dedicated staff."
KSD and KEA bargaining teams worked together for months, since May 16, to reach an agreement, even using a mediator to ensure school would start on time. To achieve a level of salaries competitive with districts in our region and our state, the KSD Board and KSD bargaining team members recognized the investment in 2018-19 and 2019-20 salaries and beyond may result in reductions in force for KEA members as early as the 2019-20 school year, with the process beginning in spring of 2019. This resulted in a letter of agreement included in the tentative agreement reached on August 29, 2018.
"We appreciate the open and honest conversations in the bargaining process, the recognition of the need to be fiscally solvent, and the signing of the Letter of Agreement by KEA Union Leaders to ensure that we will work collaboratively through the reduction in force process should the need arise," said Chief Human Resources Officer, Moriah Martin.
On August 22, 2018, OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal made it clear in a letter to all school districts "you are limited by what you can afford and what you can sustain.â€ The KSD Board and district wrestled with how to provide statewide competitive salaries and be responsible stewards of district resources and taxpayer dollars within the inequities in the state funding system. This has been a statewide experience. The lack of a fund balance going into bargaining, provided the district even less opportunity to negotiate with employee groups this year.
KEA represents 49 percent of Kent School District employees, one of eight represented employee groups, and only one of the five open contracts that were being negotiated this year. Bargaining with three represented groups continues now, even as the new school year has started.
"We're committed to providing all KSD staff with fair and competitive wages," shared KSD Board President Maya Vengadasalam. "As a Board, we take very seriously our role as stewards of the public's resources; unfortunately, in offering fair and equitable wage increases for staff, our fund balance is negatively impacted. It is imperative that our legislators from across the state come together to fix the school funding inequities that remain statewide."
Many things make the Kent School District an amazing place to work and live, competitive salaries and benefits are just one of them. KSD is the largest employer in South King County and district boundaries include the city of Kent which is the tenth most culturally diverse city in the nation . We have remarkable students, caring families and a supportive community. We are excited to welcome back over 27,000 students for the 2018-19 school year and look forward to extraordinary things happening in our classrooms each and every day for all students.