Teachers union takes superintendent to task for signing education funding position paper

135
0
Edmonds School District Superintendent Kris McDuffy

The Edmonds Education Association, the union that represents about 1,500 educators in the Edmonds School District, has criticized Edmonds School District Superintendent Kris McDuffy for taking a position on education funding that they say would “severely limit” their collective bargaining rights, reduce school staffing and negatively impact medical benefits.

At issue is an Educational Funding Position Paper, signed by McDuffy and 31 other superintendents from Northwest Educational Service District (ESD) 189, which includes the Edmonds School District. The paper, which was sent last month to the region’s state legislators, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and other education association leaders, summarized the superintendents’ thoughts on education funding proposals now being considered in Olympia.

In it, the superintendents noted that their intent wasn’t to “advocate for or against a particular bill or proposal,” but instead urged lawmakers to incorporate the Northwest ESD’s regional positions into a compromise plan now under discussion in the state Legislature.

Under a deadline this year to fully fund public education as demanded by the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, lawmakers are looking at three current budget proposals — one from the State Senate, one from the House and one developed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Included in the Northwest ESD’s paper are positions related to collective bargaining, which “must be reformed,” the superintendents said. “At a minimum, ‘guardrails’ or ‘bumpers’ must be in place that prohibit bargaining of local levy resources for basic education duties and responsibilities,” they wrote, adding that failure to do so will result in “a regression to the current unconstitutional funding system.”

Andi Nofziger-Meadows, Edmonds Education Association president, said the EEA takes issue with the idea of placing “guardrails or bumpers” on collective bargaining, calling the position “very hurtful.”

“Collective bargaining is how we have a voice in the district budget,” Nofziger-Meadows said.

The union also disagrees with McDuffy’s support for limiting the use of local levy resources for basic education funding, adding that such a position will ultimately lead to staffing cuts for teachers and support staff.

“She signed on to support cutting staff. That’s not the position we want our leaders to take,” Nofziger-Meadows said. “We are understaffed in all areas except administration.”

And the union said it opposes the education funding paper’s position for transitioning K-12 employees to a statewide health benefits program, stating that medical benefits — along with other staffing issues — should be bargained at the local level.

In response to the union’s concerns, McDuffy — who is in her first year as district superintendent — sent an email Wednesday morning to all employees, reiterating her full support for collective bargaining and the work of district staff. But the superintendent also stated that the Legislature needs “to make certain reforms, including in the laws pertaining to collective bargaining,” to avoid a recurrence of education funding shortages that prompted the McCleary lawsuit in the first place.

McDuffy added that the amount of local levy dollars used to fund salaries is “jeopardizing our, and many districts’ long-term funding security,” and that lawmakers should include the funding of teachers’ salaries in basic education funding. “It is their paramount duty,” she said.

“This draws on the Legislature to fulfill its duty,” McDuffy wrote in the email. “My conviction for funding to go directly to support teaching, learning and safe and healthy environments across our district has not changed.”

Nofziger-Meadows said the superintendent’s Wednesday email to staff “makes it more difficult for employees to know what Dr. McDuffy believes in.”

“Asking the Legislature to enact laws to prohibit school employees from bargaining over local levy resources for basic education — which is everything about our classrooms — is not fully supporting collective bargaining,” Nofziger-Meadows continued. “It feels as if she and the other superintendents are blaming collective bargaining by employee groups for our current unconstitutional funding system, instead of placing blame on the state Legislature where it belongs.”

The Edmonds Education Association and the school district will be negotiating a new contract this year, but won’t be able to start contract talks until a final state budget is approved. The regular 105-day legislative session ends this Sunday, April 23, but lawmakers are expected to have at least one additional special session that could run through the summer.

— By Teresa Wippel

First and last name must be used for comment to be approved.