The vote was supposed to be private, open only to union members, but based on the roar of applause and cheers, the answer was clear: the strike was officially over.
By a vote of 687-6, teachers with the Battle Ground Education Association overwhelmingly approved a new two-year salary contract.
“99 percent,” union president Linda Peterson announced to a standing ovation at Battle Ground High School after tallying the votes.
New teachers in the district will now start with a salary of $48,593, with the most experienced teachers with advanced degrees making up to $93,731. Next year’s salary range will increase by inflation costs decided by the legislature.
“I am so excited and proud that we were able to get this done,” said Peterson.
Teachers in Battle Ground voted Friday night to remain on strike, despite a judge ordering them to return to work. The bargaining team negotiated through the weekend and reached a deal Saturday evening.
“They had the resolve that they were not going to give up the work stoppage until they saw all the McCleary money,” she added.
The end of the teacher’s strike in Battle Ground caps off a tense summer of negotiations in Washington. At one point, nearly all of the school districts in Clark County were on strike, including Longview in Cowlitz County.
The year’s contract disputes stemmed from Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which mandated that the legislature fund public schools adequately. School districts opened up salary negotiations this summer after the Legislature earmarked more than $1 billion dollars to increase teacher pay.
When the vote results were announced, teachers erupted in applause, many exchanging hugs and excitedly texting coworkers.
“I’m just ecstatic,” said Laurie Creager, a teacher-librarian at Captain Strong Primary School.
“Now I can proudly say I work in Battle Ground school district,” said Becky Broyles, a high school teacher at River HomeLink.
“I have a master’s degree, I have a national board certificate,” said Broyles. “I have worked to get recognized as a professional, and now I feel like I’m actually on par with my peers.”
Broyles is thankful the bargaining team was able to reach a deal before the strike entered its fourth week. She said the new salary schedule will keep educators in Battle Ground, and knows some who had started considering a move to a higher-paying district.
“There were definitely resumes being written and LinkedIn pages being updated,” she added.
Additional details of the new contract will be made available at an upcoming special school board meeting this week, said Rita Sanders, spokeswoman for Battle Ground Public Schools.
“We are really excited to have school start on Monday,” she said, adding that the board will also consider a revised school calendar.
While the district largely praised the ratification of a new deal, a press release sent out included a statement from Superintendent Mark Ross that points to deeper concerns about the district’s future budget projections.
“While Battle Ground is not alone in its financial challenges, the district’s difficulties are certainly amplified by the inequities of new state funding,” Ross wrote. “Battle Ground will have to make some difficult budget decisions in the coming years to bring the district in closer alignment with the state prototypical school model.”
With the vote approved, the 13,500 students in the Battle Ground school district will start school on Monday, ending the last teacher strike in southwest Washington. Teachers in Tumwater remain the last district in the state on the picket line.