Teachers from eight school districts in northwest Washington are planning one-day strikes to draw attention to what they say are inadequate school-funding proposals in the state Legislature.
Teachers in eight Washington school districts have decided to walk out of class for one day to protest what they say is too little funding for the state’s public schools.
Teachers want to see better health-care benefits for school staff, more money to pay for voter-approved class-size reductions and higher cost-of-living raises than the state House or Senate have proposed so far.
As of Friday morning, local teachers unions in the Lakewood, Arlington, Stanwood-Camano, Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Bellingham, Ferndale and Blaine school districts had voted for a one-day walkout, said Paul Hope, head of the regional union office in Bellingham, and a math and physics teacher at Mount Vernon High School.
Teachers from Arlington, Lakewood and Stanwood-Camano plan to strike Wednesday. Teachers in the other districts are scheduling their walkouts over the next few weeks.
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More unions are expected to vote soon on whether to join the effort, Hope said. Lake Washington’s teachers union, for instance, will vote Tuesday on whether to take part, said President Kevin Teeley.
In Seattle, union President Jonathan Knapp said teachers will start talking about a possible walkout next week, once they return from spring break.
“The word is traveling,” said Rich Wood, spokesman for the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state’s largest teachers union. Each local union will make its own decision about whether to strike, he said.
The statewide association has lobbied extensively for better teacher pay and more school funding this session, organizing rallies and airing radio advertisements.
The WEA was also a major backer of last fall’s initiative to reduce class sizes, which voters approved. The union spent more than $2.5 million in support of that measure, according to campaign-finance records.
The last time teachers across the state held similar, one-day protests was in 1999, when thousands of teachers from about 50 school districts voted to walk out over a period of weeks, Wood said. That year, lawmakers granted a 3 percent raise for all public-school employees in the state.
This year, state House Democrats and Senate Republicans have offered budgets that propose between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion to satisfy a state Supreme Court order to increase funding for public schools.
Both proposals include some money to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, but neither plan would lower the number of students in grades 4-12, even though that’s what voters approved in Initiative 1351.
House Democrats proposed a slightly larger cost-of-living increase for teachers than did Senate Republicans, and put more money toward health-insurance plans for K-12 employees.
The state teachers union has said neither the House nor Senate budget goes far enough to satisfy the high court’s ruling, or to pay teachers the competitive wages they deserve.
Larry Delaney, a math teacher at Lakewood High School, said the approximately 140 teachers in his district are planning a demonstration and community-service project instead of showing up for work on Wednesday. Schools in the Lakewood School District will be closed, he said.
The decision to walk out didn’t come easily for Delaney.
“We take our jobs seriously, we take our responsibilities seriously, we take our students seriously,” he said.
While the protest will affect students and families for one day, he said, he hopes it can make lasting improvements for teachers.