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Contract crunch time for schools in Seattle and other districts

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KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The Everett school district has a tentative contract with teachers. Now how about Seattle?

Everett Public Schools and the union announced the deal Sunday. The union is set to present the contract to members on Tuesday.

That’s also the day that teachers in the Seattle district are set to vote on whether to strike.

And at least five teachers unions in the region have authorized strikes if they don't see higher salaries. Some big districts, like Kent and Highline, are among them.

But 30 school districts have already come to agreements with unions, said Rich Wood with the Washington Education Association.

"The administrations are providing raises in the double-digit percentages, and that's what's possible in every school district,” Wood said. “Unfortunately in some school districts superintendents are just simply making excuses."

Seattle Public Schools sees things a bit differently. A spokesperson said teachers will be presented with the best compensation package that the district can afford.

What’s driving all of this?

It's fallout from the McCleary court decision that's injected a bunch of money into education in this state.

That case directed the state of Washington to fully fund public schools, and this year lawmakers put billions of dollars toward meeting that requirement.

Jerry Cornfield of the Daily Everett of Herald told KUOW’s Angela King that the calendar also plays a part. Contracts expire Friday, and with classes set to start this week and next, districts are racing to get deals done.

But Cornfield said state law also now limits how much money wealthy districts can raise through local levies. So districts and unions will be working to push through changes in the legislature in 2019.

 “Seattle is one of those districts that wants to regain some of its ability to raise money from local property taxes,” he said.

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