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Pasco Teachers End Strike With New Contract

Lauren Rosenthal
Northwest News Network
Pasco High School English teachers Amber Wilcox and Tiffany Owona went from their union's contract ratification vote to set up Wilcox's classroom Monday.

High-fives and cheers of “hallelujah” rang out in the halls of Pasco High School Monday as teachers approved a new contract with the Pasco School District.

It marks the end of a strike -- and a brutal round of negotiations.

Under their old contract, Pasco teachers brought home some of the smallest paychecks in the state. Now, the district has agreed to increase salaries by 13.5 percent over two years. The district also agreed to buy new teaching materials and reduce class sizes.

High school English teacher Tiffany Owona used to have up to 36 students per class.

"The bargaining team worked hard to get us 30 and I’m happy with that,” she said.

Owona’s union was fined in court Friday and the Pasco school board talked about withholding teacher salary and health insurance.

As a single parent, Owona began to worry:

"You have two little kids that need to eat and get shoes and all those things.” She said. “It gets -- it gets tough."

A spokesman for the statewide union said this was one of the toughest contract disputes he’s worked on. The union will now focus on negotiations in Seattle.