Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Beginning $40,760, top pay $78,000: Deal reached, approved for Colfax teacher pay


August 30, 2018 | View PDF

The Colfax school district board approved a new salary agreement Monday night with the Colfax Education Association (CEA) – the teachers union – after negotiations since the spring between Superintendent Jerry Pugh, CEA President Christopher Clausen and others.

The 180-day contract sets starting salaries at $40,760 with a top salary of $78,000, plus six “responsibility days” and one professional learning day at per diem pay. Responsibility days refer to time spent by teachers setting up classrooms, overseeing kids at after-school activities, advising on senior projects and more.

“Everybody understands that things still need to be done,” said Pugh, referring to added time after the school day.

Professional learning days at per diem are calculated by individual salary – such as the one-day rate of a teacher making $50,000, for example.

Also in the deal, COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) is no longer, replaced by an inflation index approved by the state of Washington known as IPD (Implicit Price Deflator for Personal Consumption), an inflationary factor. As part of the new Colfax agreement, 33 percent of IPD will be at the discretion of the district to cover seniority pay increases, etc., with the other 67 percent going to teachers.

“I'd like to publicly thank Christopher and his team,” Pugh said Monday night at the school board meeting. “They came prepared, and they should have ... things were respectful, and professional. I think we had great dialogue. We walk away with relationships intact, perhaps improved a little... It wasn't a cakewalk, it was hard work, on both sides.”

In June, a tentative agreement was reached between the two sides and the CEA ratified it in August.

“We wanted to leave the table with mutual respect and trust, and we did that,” said Clausen, a Colfax alumnus and 12th year teacher in the district. “Knowing that all of us continue to work and live in the community we love.”

Clausen led a nine-member negotiating team elected by the union – four teachers from the elementary school and four from the junior/senior high school.

About how many hours went into this?

“Hundreds,” said Clausen. “It was extensive.”

Along with teacher salaries, the school board also approved a five percent across the board increase for classified staff, in an agreement with Colfax Educational Support Personnel (CESP).

The $78,000 top-level teacher's salary compares to the previous top end of $68,000 in the state salary schedule for Colfax.

“That's a very broad, general, not all-encompassing number,” said Pugh, who estimates the full value of the previous high to be in the range of $71,000.

The starting salary before was in the range of $36,000.

“It's extremely complicated,” Pugh said.

This year's negotiations were a return to districts in Washington deciding teacher salaries on their own, after the state did it previously. The change is part of the aftermath of the 2012 McCleary decision by the Washington state Supreme Court, which determined that education was underfunded, mandating full-funding from the state legislature by 2018. A total of about $2 billion was then allocated for schools, with certain amounts going to each district.

The Colfax district's whole collective bargaining contract will be up for renewal next spring – which covers personal days, sick time, class sizes, teacher evaluations and more.

The deal approved Monday is for salaries only.

In the end, the board made a point to thank all involved.

“From what you hear in the news, the striking, and this and that, we really appreciate what you've done,” said Terry Huber.


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