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Could Higher Pay in Wash. Lead Ore. Teachers Across the Border?

Beaverton, Ore., elementary school Spanish teacher Lindsay Dance works as a preschool educator twice a week to supplement her income. (Thomas Patterson)
Beaverton, Ore., elementary school Spanish teacher Lindsay Dance works as a preschool educator twice a week to supplement her income. (Thomas Patterson)
November 6, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. — Washington state teachers earned big pay increases this year, and that has some Oregon teachers wondering what it would be like to work in classrooms across the Columbia River.

After years of fights over education funding, a court case known as the McCleary decision in Washington state and teacher strikes this year finally resulted in more money for educators. Now, starting teachers in Vancouver, Wash., make $8,000 more a year on average than teachers just a few miles south in Portland.

Skye Hanna, a kindergarten teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary in Portland, said the higher pay is enticing.

“With my own student loans from my undergrad and my student loans from my master's degree and the increasing rent prices in the Portland area and the surrounding areas - like, of course I'm going to consider it,” Hanna confessed.

Other factors could draw teachers away too. According to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, teachers in the state make 22 percent less than their counterparts with similar levels of education and experience in the private sector.

Lindsay Dance, a Spanish teacher at West Tualatin View Elementary School in Beaverton, has always worked a second job to supplement her income, and currently teaches preschool twice a week. She said young teachers whose jobs are more vulnerable and who don't have as much retirement saved up in the state's pension system could be most tempted to move.

But Dance also said what teachers have accomplished in Washington state could energize teachers here.

"Teachers who would maybe feel motivated and inspired by seeing what teachers did over the border and what they were able to accomplish, maybe it would motivate teachers to want to do the same over here and just push the Oregon Legislature to try to find sustainable funding for education,“ Dance said.

Hanna said she also hopes the state fixes teachers' salary issues, because she wants to stay in Oregon.

"I've been at my school for the past five years. I don't want to leave. I love this school, I love the people that work here, I love the kids,” Hanna said. “But it's a lot to think about when you add money into it."

Many teachers have also said they are concerned about gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler's proposal to cut $1.2 billion from the state's pension system for teachers and other public employees.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR