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Ridgefield teachers overwhelmingly approve new contract, union says

Members of the Ridgefield Education Association voted 99% in favor of a contract agreement reached over the weekend that ended a six-day strike.

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. — A tentative contract agreement between the Ridgefield School District and a union representing teachers after a six-day strike is tentative no more. According to the Ridgefield Education Association, staff voted "overwhelmingly" in favor of ratifying the new contract.

The three-year collective bargaining agreement was approved Tuesday afternoon with 99% of teachers in favor, the REA said in a statement. The union said that the new contract "takes the first steps" toward getting teachers pay proportional to heavier workloads.

The union said that the deal would also help to attract and retain quality educators, especially for special education.

RELATED: Teachers in the Ridgefield School District go on strike

"Educators will now be guaranteed annual cost-of-living increases mandated by the state Supreme Court through the McCleary court decision," the REA said. "Educators also will receive annual training in de-escalation tactics and improvements to class size providing safer learning environments. Additionally, improvements for special education caseloads will be made over the next couple years."

Teachers went on strike Sept. 9, just after the start of the school year, when negotiators failed to reach an agreement before the union's self-imposed deadline. Negotiations succeeded in producing a tentative deal Sunday, and the union agreed to have teachers back in classrooms on Monday.

Though the strike came to an end, its specter remained until teachers could vote on whether to accept the deal.

In June, nurses at Providence St. Vincent voted to reject a tentative deal reached between hospital administrators and an Oregon Nurses Association bargaining team, stoking concerns of an imminent strike. A new deal wasn't approved until mid-July.

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"REA reaching an agreement with the district is one step in our united, longer-term fight for the public schools our students and families deserve and the respected, well-compensated jobs educators deserve," the union continued. "From the November general election to the upcoming legislative session and to collaborating with community members, our work doesn’t stop.

"Together we started important, long overdue conversations about special education and the district’s intervention program that we need to continue. Ridgefield educators will push onward, advocating alongside our students, families and communities."

The REA represents about 240 educators in the Ridgefield School District. Its previous three-year contract with the district expired just before the start of the current school year on Sept. 1. Bargaining for a new contract had been underway since June.

The Ridgefield School District has been posting updates about its side of the contract negotiations on its website. The last contract proposal posted by the district was on Friday, Sept. 16, two days before a deal was reached.

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