(The Center Square) – The Kent School district in King County is making national headlines over a teachers strike with teachers’ pay being one of the sticking points. They feel “underappreciated and underpaid,” reported CNN. However, government data reveals that four out of 10 teachers in the district make over $100,000 annually.
The Kent School District teachers’ contract states that the top of scale base salary for a teacher is $109,904. That would be for a teacher with 25 years of experience and a Masters degree. But the union contract also pays teachers extra for taking on extra class assignments.
The district also pays teachers a stipend that can be as much as $5,593 to pay for “professional learning” outside of the state’s basic education commitment. The additional pay can add up as one teacher made $160,370 in 2021, according to a state database of teacher salaries.
According to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, there were 1,599 Kent classroom teachers in the 2020-21 school year. Around 640 teachers made $100,000 or more that year.
One Kent elementary school teacher was quoted in a story about the strike. That teacher’s salary has increased from $68,009 in 2016-17 to $98,267 in 2020-21, according to the state database of teacher salaries. That’s a $30k-plus raise over four years.
Last school year’s average annual teacher salary ranged from $77,424 to $84,791. That is more than the City of Kent’s 2020 median household income of $73,891, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Kent schools dedicated about 60% of last school year’s budget on certified and classified salaries, with a total of $290.5 million. The year prior saw Kent schools’ certified and classified salaries totaling around $256 million combined.
The school district has spent an additional $61.8 million on “teaching activities” out of its general fund budget from 2019-20 to 2021-22. That’s a 27% increase over the two-year period.
Teaching activities is defined by the Kent School District as classroom instruction, instructional assistants and extracurricular activities.
The district’s “certificated salaries” – which includes teacher compensation – has increased 26% over that two-year period. It jumped from $175 million in 2019 to $220.8 million in 2021.
While the Kent Education Association continues its contract negotiations with the school district, students have spoken out on the effects of the teacher strike.
One student, a senior at Kentridge High School, presented a statement during the public comment section at Wednesday’s Kent School Board meeting. The student said he is trying to apply for college and is unable to provide his class schedule, which is required on college applications, due to classes being delayed.
“As a result, I can’t finish my applications to a bunch of colleges that I am trying to apply to,” the student said in a statement presented to the Kent School Board.
The number of enrolled students at the Kent School District in the last school year was 25,083. According to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 46.9% met ELA standards; 50.2% met the science standard; and 27.7% met math standards.
The Kent Education Association did not respond to a request for comment from The Center Square.