Teachers in the Franklin Pierce School District will be off the job Friday as they join a statewide movement of rolling walkouts by teachers’ unions.
So far, teachers in more than two dozen Washington school districts have voted to stage one-day strikes in protest over lawmakers’ inaction on school funding and other education issues before the Legislature.
Peninsula teachers were the first in the South Sound to join the movement. They voted last week to strike for one day, and announced Monday evening their walkout would take place May 19.
Franklin Pierce teachers took their vote Monday evening as well.
“They are angry, and they are ready to make their voices heard,” said Franklin Pierce Education Association president Pam Kruse. Her union represents 502 teachers and other certificated employees in the Parkland-based district.
Kruse said about half of the members showed up for Monday’s vote, and a majority of them approved the one-day action. She said teachers plan to hold a rally at 9 a.m. Friday in Gonyea Park, then begin picketing on Portland and Pacific avenues. She said teachers also will use the day to deliver more than 3,000 food items to a food bank that helps fill weekend backpacks for low-income students in the district.
Missing school on Friday means the school year will be extended by one day, to June 22, district officials said. School had been scheduled to end June 19.
District spokesman Willie Painter said the school calendar negotiated with the teachers union included two makeup days, which are usually used in the event of bad winter weather but weren’t needed this year. One day was in April and June 22 is the second.
Painter said families should have received auto-dialed phone calls Tuesday, and letters will be sent home with students announcing there will be no school Friday.
Frank Hewins, superintendent of the district, said he was sorry for the inconvenience the teachers’ actions might cause.
“Please know that this labor walkout is beyond the control of Franklin Pierce Schools,” he said. “This walkout isn’t about our district, but is an effort by teachers’ associations to influence the Legislature. We agree that lawmakers have failed to fully fund K-12 education for too many years.”
The Legislature opened a special session last week aimed at dealing with the school funding issue. Several competing plans have been put forward, but lawmakers have yet to agree on one.
Legislators are struggling to come up with a way to end the practice of having local school levies pay for basic education, which the state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case is a state responsibility. How they decide to do that could affect how the state funds teacher salaries and how teachers unions bargain local contracts with their districts.
Teachers also are angry over the Legislature’s failure to fully fund the union-backed class-size reduction initiative approved by voters in November. Kruse said teachers have been writing and calling lawmakers but now feel they must do something more to get their attention. She accused lawmakers of “playing games.”
“If you want to play games, then this is what you’re going to get,” she said. “Angry teachers, angry parents and angry community members.”