Teachers in two of Pierce County’s large school districts voted Monday evening to avoid a one-day strike, while teachers in the largest local district are holding off for now.
Members of the Bethel Education Association in Spanaway and the Clover Park Education Association in Lakewood decided not to join a statewide series of rolling one-day walkouts, but instead will organize other forms of protest against the Legislature.
At Tacoma Public Schools, Pierce County’s largest district, union president Angel Morton said individual school meetings with union members have been held and building representatives were scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon.
“At this time, we do not have plans to do a one-day action,” Morton said Monday. “But that could change as members see how little progress is being made in Olympia.”
Meantime, union educators in the Steilacoom Historical School District voted Monday evening to join those in at least 40 other districts across the state and stage a one-day walkout.
In Steilacoom, the one-day strike is scheduled for May 20.
Steilacoom Superintendent Kathi Weight said the missed school day will be made up May 22, a Friday that had previously been scheduled as either a day off for students and teachers or an optional make-up day in the event of severe winter weather. The last day of school will remain the same for Steilacoom students.
Union president Tanya Rontos said there was debate on whether to strike.
“There was a lot of back-and-forth, and of course our members were concerned about the impacts on students and families,” Rontos said. “In the end, people felt like we needed to have a voice.”
Lakewood and Bethel teachers chose an alternate course of action: waving signs and distributing literature outside of school hours.
Bethel Education Association president Bob Shafer said Monday’s vote not to strike “was very close, within 4 percent.”
Clover Park Education Association president Myra Johnson said the date and location for the Lakewood teacher rally have yet to be determined.
She said that during the membership meeting Monday there was a motion on the floor for a walkout but that it was amended in favor of a rally.
“We still want the Legislature to hear us,” Johnson said. She said her members made the decision to rally instead of strike because they were “putting students first.”
Rontos, the Steilacoom union president, said next week’s strike is not aimed at the school district, the superintendent or the school board; rather, it is aimed at the Legislature.
Teachers union members across the state have been rallying and staging one-day job actions to protest issues in education and school funding that lawmakers did not act on during their regular session but instead punted into the ongoing special session. The statewide Washington Education Association says issues include proposals for skimpy teacher raises, failure to fully fund the union-backed class-size reduction initiative approved by voters, an increased use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, and threats to local union bargaining.
Teachers in the Franklin Pierce School District participated in a one-day strike last week. Those in the Peninsula School District have announced a half-day walkout May 19. The University Place teachers union has scheduled a one-day strike for May 20.