Tacoma teachers break down in tears over significant pay increase

TACOMA, Wash. -- Even with the doors closed, you could hear loud cheers of approval from Tacoma teachers. More than two thousand teachers packed into a gymnasium at Mount Tahoma High School on Friday learning of the latest district offer.

The deal of almost an 18 percent pay increase over two years had teachers visibly overjoyed even before they voted on the deal.

In the end, the vast majority of teachers at the meeting approved the offer officially ending the strike in its 9th day.

“Now I am exhausted. I am going to cry. I am so proud of our community that came together,” Tacoma Education Association President Angel Morton said.

The tears didn’t stop there. Preschool teacher Caylah Dargan broke down when we asked what 18 percent meant to her.

“I can pay some loans off. I can maybe buy my daughter a graduation present that I couldn’t,” Dargan said.

Dargan says the significant pay hike makes her feel appreciated.

“Lifechanger for all of us we finally feel valued respected,” Dargan said.

In this first year, Tacoma teachers will make about 14% more meaning the salary range now for a beginning educator is around $54,000 and a teacher with a masters degree and 20 years experience can make $106,000. A teacher with a PhD can make as high as $108,000.

Tacoma Education Association says the deal makes their teachers the second highest paid in the South Sound region.

“I am at $101,000, it’s the most I have made even in the business world,” Dargan said.

As teachers celebrate, we asked Tacoma Public Schools on what made them budge from a starting offer of 3 percent.

“We received a letter from 8 of our local legislators who committed to fixing the inequities of the state funding formula,” Tacoma Public Schools Spokesperson Dan Voelpel said.

Voelpel is talking about the McCleary decision, a historic funding boost by the state into K- 12 public education. Although many districts got significant increases in funding, TPS says their district was treated unfairly by the formula. Voelpel says by the next school year if there is not a fix, the district will be in a $38 million deficit.

But with the recent vow from legislators to fix the issue and with teachers unions promising to help lobby lawmakers, the district said they decided to budge.

School for 1st through 12th grade will start Monday.