(The Center Square) – The Kent School District in King County is making national headlines over a teachers’ strike, with teacher pay one of the sticking points. They feel “undervalued and underpaid,” said CNN. However, government data reveals that four in 10 teachers in the district earn more than $100,000 a year.
Kent School District teachers Contract indicates that the highest base salary for a teacher is $109,904. It would be for a teacher with 25 years of experience and a master’s degree. But the union contract also pays extra teachers to take on extra class assignments.
The district also pays teachers an allowance of up to $5,593 to pay for “professional learning” outside of the state’s commitment to basic education. The extra pay can add up because a teacher earned $160,370 in 2021, according to a state teacher salary database.
According to Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, there were 1,599 Kent teachers in the 2020-21 school year. About 640 teachers earned $100,000 or more that year.
A Kent primary school teacher was quoted in a story about the strike. This teacher’s salary rose from $68,009 in 2016-17 to $98,267 in 2020-21, according to the state’s Teacher Salary Database. That’s an increase of over $30,000 over four years.
The average annual salary for teachers in the last school year ranged from $77,424 to $84,791. That’s more than the City of Kent’s 2020 median household income of $73,891, according to US Census Bureau data.
Kent schools spent around 60% of last school year budget on certified and classified salaries, with a total of $290.5 million. The previous year, Certified and Classified Kent Schools salaries totaled approximately $256 million combined.
The school district spent an additional $61.8 million on “teaching activities” from its general budget from 2019-20 to 2021-22. That’s a 27% increase over the two-year period.
Teaching activities are defined by the Kent School District as classroom teaching, teaching assistants, and extracurricular activities.
The district’s “certified salaries” — which include teacher pay — rose 26% over that two-year period. It went from $175 million in 2019 to $220.8 million in 2021.
As the Kent Education Association continues its contract negotiations with the school district, students have spoken out about the effects of the teachers’ strike.
A student, a senior from Kentridge High School, gave a statement during the public comment section at Wednesday’s Kent School Board meeting. The student said that he was trying to apply for the university and was unable to provide his class schedule, which is required for university applications, due to the lateness of classes.
“As a result, I cannot complete my applications to a group of colleges I am trying to apply to,” the student said in a statement presented to the Kent School Board.
The number of students enrolled in the Kent School District during the last school year was 25,083. According to the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 46.9% met ELA standards; 50.2% met the scientific standard; and 27.7% met the math standards.
The Kent Education Association did not respond to a request for comment from The Center Square.