Tuesday, September 13, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Tacoma Teachers On Strike, Thousands Of Kids Free For The Coming Days

Sept. 13, 2011 Puget Sound Anarchists

TACOMA, Wash. -- Striking teachers in the state's third-largest school
district hit the picket line Tuesday morning after weekend contract
negotiations failed to result in an agreement.

Eighty-seven percent of the Tacoma Education Association's total
membership voted Monday evening to walk out, union spokesman Rich Wood

On Tuesday morning, teachers walked back and forth in front of Lincoln
High School with picket signs while the districts 28,000 students stayed

"Kids need us. But they also need us in a positive learning environment,"
said teacher Brent Gaspaire.

The union and district are still fighting over pay, class size and the way
the teachers are transferred and reassigned.

The Tacoma School District will seek an immediate court injunction Tuesday
to terminate the strike, which school officials contend is illegal,
district spokesman Dan Voelpel said.

Superintendent Art Jarvis will revisit the decision to keep schools closed
in light of whatever happens in court, Voelpel said.

Both the Washington attorney general and state judges have ruled that
state public employees do not have the right to strike.

District officials sent automated calls to parents and staff explaining
their response to the strike. Athletics will continue since coaches are
covered under a different contract.

Tacoma teachers have been working without a contract since school started
Sept. 1. The union and district negotiated Saturday but couldn't agree on
a contract proposal.

A strike vote at the end of August failed by about 28 votes. Union bylaws
require approval by 80 percent of the nearly 1,900 members to authorize a

Since the last strike vote was so close, the union decided to allow
members with schedule conflicts to vote early. About 200 union members
with after-school responsibilities like coaching voted Friday or Saturday,
Wood said. This time, 1,623 of the union's 1,869 members voted to walk
out, he said.

A 2006 state attorney general's opinion said state and local public
employees - including teachers - have no legally protected right to
strike. That opinion also noted state law lacks specific penalties for
striking public employees.

During several past teacher strikes, Washington school districts have gone
to court and judges have ordered teachers back to work.

In Washington, only the Seattle and Spokane school districts are larger
than Tacoma.

Tacoma teachers earned an average salary of $63,793 during last school
year, according to the district. They are the best-paid teachers in Pierce
County and about the fifth-highest paid among the state's largest
districts, behind teachers in Everett, Northshore, Seattle and Bellevue,
according to state data.

The Legislature included in its state budget a 1.9 percent cut in teacher
pay but left it up to school districts to figure out how to save that
money. Some districts have made cuts elsewhere, some have cut teacher pay,
and others have worked out compromises with their local teachers union.

The News Tribune reports that on the issue of pay, the district said
Sunday it has offered teachers two options.

They could maintain the current pay schedule and sacrifice pay for one
personal day, one individual optional training day and one school-wide
training day. Or they could accept an effective 1.35 percent cut in the
salary schedule. In exchange, teachers would be allowed to schedule 2.5
furlough days.

The district said it has also offered to keep class size maximums at the
current level. The union wants to decrease class sizes, but the district
says subtracting one child per class could cost the district about $1.8
million a year.

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