Puyallup educators were waving signs Wednesday morning at five locations around the school district as they participated in a one-day walkout aimed at legislators who are working overtime on a state budget.
“Teachers want to be treated like professionals,” said Maplewood Elementary teacher Maggie Smith. “It’s not just about instruction. It’s about developing the whole child.”
Her colleague Carol Randolph talked about her packed classrooms, which in previous years have held up to 36 fifth graders. What’s it like trying to meet the needs of every one of them every day?
“It’s exhausting,” Randolph said.
Teacher pay and lower class size are among the issues teachers across the state have been fighting for this year.
The Puyallup Education Association is one of more than 60 local teachers unions that voted to walk off the job for a day to protest what they see as foot-dragging by the state Legislature on education funding. Lawmakers are now in the midst of a second special session aimed at passing a statewide budget.
Tacoma School District teachers are not striking, but they will rally with a “grade-in” event Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. at downtown’s Tollefson Plaza.
In Puyallup, community members are invited to join teachers Wednesday for a rally, scheduled for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Pioneer Park.
“We think a walkout is necessary to get the Legislature’s attention, because nothing else seems to work. We are demanding they reduce class sizes for all grades as is required by law and improve educator pay,” Karen McNamara, president of the PEA, said in a news release. “These issues have been ignored for far too long.”
McNamara said PEA appreciates local community support, and she said educators are taking action against lawmakers and not the school district.
After-school activities and evening events previously planned in the school district will continue Wednesday. That’s been the pattern in most of the other districts where one-day strikes have occurred, according to the Washington Education Association.
The Puyallup Education Association represents nearly 1,200 certificated Puyallup School District employees, including teachers, nurses and other professionals.