STRIKE OVER: Tacoma teachers approve new contract with district

TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma teachers on Friday officially voted to accept the district's contract offer, ending a 7-day strike, and classes will begin Monday, Sept. 17.

Teachers negotiated an 18% pay hike over 2 years with a 14% hike the first year -- that means the salary range is now around $54,000 to $108,000.

Tacoma Public Schools and the Tacoma Education Association announced Thursday night that they had reached a tentative contract agreement.

Teachers went on strike Sept. 6 -- which was supposed to be the first day of school -- to try to get larger pay raises than the district initially offered.

Bargaining units at most of the state's 295 school systems have sought to renegotiate salaries this year after the state infused $1 billion for teacher pay to resolve a long-running court battle that determined the state was inadequately funding public education.

On Wednesday, the Tacoma school district released a new offer to teachers, saying it contained over a 12% pay raise.

“If you remember, we started at 3.1 percent as our offer. We’re up to 12.45 percent,” said Dan Voelpel, spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools.

But Angel Morton, president of the Tacoma Education Association, said that number was misleading.

“The district says it’s 12 percent plus that’s not true. They’re taking money we’ve already made and rolling it into our base salary and calling it a raise,” Morton said.

Morton said the district was taking money that was associated with optional teacher work days, and instead rolling it into the base salary.

She says the union got the district’s proposal on Tuesday and presented a counter-offer around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Morton said Wednesday that the district risked burning bridges with its teachers.

“The teachers are feeling very disrespected by the district,” she said then.