A goal of the walkout is to call for the Legislature to agree on a plan to fully cover the costs of providing basic education to Washington’s students, as required under the 2012 McCleary Supreme Court ruling.
The Seattle teachers union will know by Monday whether its members want to stage a one-day walkout on May 1 to call for fully funding schools and to support immigrant and union rights.
Seattle Education Association board members will be counting votes over the weekend, union President Phyllis Campano said, with the results announced by Monday at the latest. The proposal requires a 75 percent approval to pass.
A goal of the walkout is to call for the Legislature to agree on a plan to fully cover the costs of providing basic education to Washington’s students, as required under the 2012 McCleary Supreme Court ruling. With several competing proposals, the McCleary debate could last into the summer.
“The Legislature is dragging its feet,” Campano said. “We want to let the legislators know it is time to fund McCleary.”
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The walkout wouldn’t be the first in recent years for the 5,000-member union, which includes teachers, paraprofessionals and office professionals. Thousands of union members from Seattle were joined by others from Issaquah and Mercer Island during a one-day walkout in May 2015 to pressure lawmakers over school funding. And the union went on strike for nearly two weeks in September 2015 after contract negotiations with the district stalled.
Union members who voted no questioned the effectiveness of a walkout, as well as the disruption it would cause for students and families. Lawton Elementary teacher Lyon Terry said his experiences with the 2015 walkout and strike led him to vote no on the proposed walkout.
“We walked out to fund education, but we ended up having to strike anyway,” Terry said. “My interpretation was that it wasn’t effective in that way. I don’t think this one would be, either.”
In addition to possibly changing the last day of school, students in some Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes are scheduled to take exams on May 1. The AP exams, which students can take to earn college credit if they score high enough, can be rescheduled, union leaders wrote in an email to members. But the IB exams, which students in the program take to earn their IB diploma, can’t be taken on a different day. Campano said she has heard more concerns from members this year than the last time they voted on a walkout.
Seattle Public Schools is waiting to see how union members vote on the issue before making any decisions about the schedule, district spokesman Luke Duecy said.
The proposed walkout has the support of Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien, who wrote in the South Seattle Emerald that if union members “decide to go on strike, we’ll have your back.”
“Your bold actions are an inspiration for working people everywhere,” Sawant and O’Brien wrote.
The proposed walkout being on May 1 is intentional, union members said. Also known as May Day, International Worker’s Day draws labor and immigration marches throughout the city every year.
“We’re a union, and we want to support other unions,” Campano said.