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Educator Pay & Benefits

Senate Budget Hurts Retirees

The Senate Budget reduces the Medicare subsidy that lowers health care costs for retirees.  This subsidy was instituted because Medicare is the primary/first insurance, which lowers the overall state costs for retiree benefits.

The Senate Republicans want to lower the state Medicare subsidy from $150 to $110 per month – over a 25% reduction in state support for retiree health benefits that will have to be absorbed by those living on a fixed income.  In addition, these retirees face even greater cost increases from the general trend of rising health care costs.  The Senate Republicans are raising health benefit support for state employees from $763 per month to $858 per month by the end of the biennium in recognition of those increasing costs of health care.  Yet, the Senate Republicans are stepping away from retiree health care – leaving the retirees to absorb premium cost increases that will be driven even higher because of the reduction to the Medicare subsidy.

The Legislature has suspended voter-approved salary COLAs for school employees for six years straight

Washington kids deserve qualified teachers and class sizes small enough to get the individual attention they need to succeed. To attract and keep quality teachers and support staff, we need to pay professional compensation, including salaries, health care and retirement.

Here’s a printable PDF list of WEA priority bills, including several that would improve educator compensation. Here are key messages and facts about educator compensation.

For the last six years, the state Legislature has suspended voter-approved cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for school employees. After six years, simply restoring the COLA doesn’t go far enough.

The state’s own research agrees.

In nearly every category, K-12 school employees earn less than our counterparts in comparable professions that require similar experience and education. The state’s own recommendations call for increasing K-12 salaries by $2 billion based on a study of comparable professions. This is based on the state’s own Compensation Technical Working Group report and recommendations, which were commissioned in response to the McCleary court case.  Here is a chart.


  • Under the state’s comparable wage recommendations, state funding for the average full-time, 12-month education support professional’s salary would increase from $32,328 to $49,413, and state funding for a starting teacher’s base salary would increase from $34,048 to $53,008. (These numbers are from the state salary report and have been updated for inflation.)
  • When adjusted for regional cost-of-living differences, an annual NEA research report shows that average teacher pay in Washington is 42nd out of 50 states. And Washington’s average teacher pay is the lowest among the West Coast states.


K-12 school employees deserve much more than a mere COLA, as do higher education faculty and staff. Here are WEA’s compensation goals for the 2015 legislative session, which is underway in Olympia :

  • Make measurable progress towards a professional salary for educators that is comparable with professions that require similar education and training
  • Improve higher education faculty and staff salaries by authorizing community and technical colleges to bargain local funds for faculty salary increments
  • Fully fund the educator cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) required by current law (voter-approved I-732)
  • Increase funding for active and retired educators’ health and pension benefits
  • Explore innovative legislative options to increase total compensation in recognition of increased demands and expectations within the education profession

Here’s a printable PDF list of WEA priority bills, including several that would improve pay, health care and retirement benefits for educators.

Currently, the starting base salary for teachers is about $33,000. Here’s the current salary schedule.

Update on early retirement

Some educators who are members of state Retirement Plans 2 and 3 qualify for early retirement under provisions adopted by the Legislature in recent years. Read more about early retirement options, or check out this chart that explains what’s at stake.



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