Senate plan would give raises to younger teachers, not veterans

Posted: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

OLYMPIA (AP) -- Beginning teachers would get cost-of-living raises, but their more experienced counterparts would go without under the budget plan sketched out Tuesday by the Senate's majority Republicans.

The plan restores a small portion of the money eliminated in Gov. Gary Locke's budget. Locke proposed suspending the voter-approved initiative that mandates yearly cost-of-living raises for teachers and other school employees.

The Republican plan would give raises to beginning teachers and those with less than seven years service -- about 32 percent of the total, said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Dino Rossi. For teachers in the first two years of service, the raise would be 3 percent per year for both years covered by the spending plan.

''By the second year of the biennium, a beginning teacher will not make under $30,000 a year,'' said Rossi, R-Sammamish. ''The goal here is to make sure that ... we attract them and retain'' beginning teachers.

Raises for older, more experienced and better-paid teachers would remain a casualty of the state's budget problems, said Rossi, who also included raises for typically low-paid school employees such as bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria workers.

The raises would cost about $48 million for the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1. That's a fraction of the roughly $400 million cost of Initiative 732, one of the contributors to the state's budget gap.

And it's nowhere near enough for the Washington Education Association, the 76,000-member teachers union that backed the initiative.

''We do appreciate the effort that was made,'' said Charles Hasse, the WEA's president. ''But they really don't understand the nature of the problem.''

Hasse said both novice and veteran teachers are underpaid in Washington compared to other states.

The union will continue to push for the entire raise mandated by the initiative, he said.

''The people have spoken on this, and they're ignoring the will of the voters,'' Hasse said.

The WEA has strong supporters in the Democratic House, including House Speaker Frank Chopp.

Rossi also proposed restoring some of the class-size-reduction money mandated by Initiative 728, also passed by the voters in 2000. Instead of freezing the class-size money at about $212 per student as Locke proposed, Rossi's plan would increase it to $254 per student in the second half of the two-year cycle.

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