The only clear consequence of Tuesday’s walkout by Seattle teachers is that students will lose one precious day of instruction.
This one-day protest extends the last day of school from Monday, June 15 — ending on a Monday is a strange decision itself — to Tuesday, June 16. That virtually assures that students and teachers will be checked out for not one, but two days.
For all the clamor from educators about standardized tests wasting instructional days, they are choosing to waste another. And they are intentionally inconveniencing tens of thousands of parents, including those in the Mercer Island and Issaquah districts, where teachers are also walking out Tuesday.
The stated goal of the Washington Education Association and the 57 local bargaining units that are participating in rolling one-day walkouts is to make lawmakers face their duty to better fund education.
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That message, however, was resonating in Olympia long before these walkouts began in April. All three budget proposals for 2015-17 — by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate — give teachers an overdue cost-of-living raise. All three reduce class sizes for grades K-3. All three drop at least $1.3 billion more into basic education funding to comply with the state Supreme Court’s landmark McCleary decision.
The WEA wants more. It dislikes details of the Republican budget proposal. The union is well within its rights to protest, to rally at the state Capital, to run ads blasting one proposal or another. It is consistently among the biggest campaign and lobbying spenders in Olympia.
Instead, it chose to protest budget negotiating positions — not the final budget itself, mind you — in the most confrontational way.
Closing down schools to air grievances is antagonistic to students. Instead of learning, students will be tucked into ad hoc child-care arrangements by working parents. If old enough, thousands of kids will probably be left alone. The union knows this. It decided that its concerns were more important.
Some local unions opted to protest during teacher-training times so as not to cause this kind of disruption
Teachers have no legal right to strike, according to a 2006 analysis by the state Attorney General. But state law establishes no penalties for strikes, and it does not appear that any district has pressed the issue. Seattle school district leaders have shown especially poor leadership, for refusing to answer questions from the media about the walkout.
Public education in Seattle earns a failing grade on Tuesday.