Perspectives: Negotiated teacher pay increases and their effect on education finances; academic performance gaps remain.

The Seattle Times offers a good explainer on the effect of this years teacher salary settlements. The legislative landscape for 2019 is almost surely altered by unsustainable collective bargaining agreements.

In 13 districts across the state, teacher strikes delayed the start of school this year; potential walkouts that never materializedthreatened to do so in eight others, including Seattle Public Schools. And even though most Washington students have returned to school, the double-digit pay hikes approved this summer have set many districts and their unions on a collision path with the state Legislature next year: Without more money from lawmakers, they won’t be able to afford the raises they promised — at least not beyond this year.

As the article points out, Tacoma teachers settled for a 14.4 percent overall salary boost and only one district, Tumwater, remains on strike. Remarkably, several of the districts that reached, well, generous settlements acknowledge that they cannot afford them.

Inslee and state lawmakers likely will hear from a united front of districts and teachers next year: Already, officials in Seattle, Edmonds and Spokane have forecast years of painful budget crunches if they don’t receive more money from the state to cover their now-higher teacher salaries.

Tacoma on Friday predicted much the same, saying it expects a $38 million shortfall next school year — “if we don’t get legislative action.”

We’ve noted the concern with unsustainable salary increases – increases that also squeeze money pegged to reform efforts – several times over recent weeks (see here and here).

The Seattle Times also recently reported on persistent academic gaps revealed in the latest round of state testing.

Washington’s 1.1 million public-school students are performing slightly better on English exams than they were in years past, according to new numbers released by the state education department this week.

But when it comes to math — and the overall performance of students with disabilities, English learners and students of color — the state hasn’t made much progress.

“We’re on a long journey,” said Chris Reykdal, Washington state schools chief.

Yes. Progress on the journey, though, has been slow.

About 59 percent of eighth-grade students statewide passed the English exam, up a percentage point from last year’s 58 percent and three percentage points from the 2014-2015 school year. (There were a few grade levels that appeared to be recovering from a dip in the passing rates in the previous year.)

In math, the numbers barely moved. The passing rates after fifth grade drop to just under half, a trend that hasn’t changed in four years…

Disparities in scores between black and Latino students and their white peers don’t appear to be narrowing much, either. In 10th grade, the gaps between black and white students are nearly 30 percentage points wide.

It’s important that the state continue to monitor academic performance. And it’s important that education funding remains tied to reform efforts designed to improve performance.