While Puyallup teachers staged a one-day strike Wednesday, Tacoma teachers decided to wait until the bell rang to register their displeasure with legislative delays in funding education.
At an after-school “grade-in” at Tollefson Plaza in downtown Tacoma, they settled on the plaza steps with laptops and paperwork.
“The whole purpose is to let everybody see what we do,” said Aaron Nyland, an English teacher at Lincoln High School. He said he usually has “tons of papers to grade.”
“To do a good job takes a lot of time,” he added.
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While Pierce County’s two largest school districts took different approaches Wednesday, both the walkout and the protest were aimed at legislators working on a state budget in their second special session of the year. Teachers hope that budget will include more pay and fewer students per classroom.
Teachers do more than grade assignments after school, said Kim Eudaily, another Lincoln teacher. She said teachers are constantly working on updating curriculum and establishing learning targets for students. As a special education teacher, she regularly spends several hours working on each of her students’ IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). She estimates spending an hour or two each weeknight and another five hours over the weekend on teaching tasks.
Nyland said he was glad Tacoma teachers opted to skip the one-day strike, part of a series of rolling walkouts staged by more than 60 teachers unions around the state.
“It’s a negative approach to getting what you want,” he said.
Lincoln biology teacher Jenn Holm said Tacoma teachers didn’t want to create disruption so close to the end of the school year for students who needed to complete state tests and other requirements in order to graduate.
But Karen McNamara, president of the Puyallup Education Association, said in a news release that her members believe a walkout was 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. These issues have been ignored for far too long.”
McNamara said PEA appreciates local community support, and she said educators were taking action against lawmakers and not the Puyallup School District.
Joining Tacoma teachers Wednesday afternoon was state Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma).
“I think the big argument is about revenue — are we going to add more?” she said. She said that even with more revenue in the state economic forecast, the budget proposed by the Democrat-controlled state House includes a capital gains tax. She supports that option, saying it’s more predictable than some other new revenue sources, such as the as-yet untested marijuana tax.
Also joining Tacoma teachers were representatives of the Tacoma Council PTA, who distributed water bottles and Washington state apples, and Tacoma Public Schools human resources director Lynne Rosellini, who brought cookies. Jinkins brought bags of homemade ginger snaps. Superintendent Carla Santorno and School Board members Kurt Miller and Debbie Winskill also stopped by.
Earlier Wednesday, Puyallup educators waved signs at five locations around the school district as they participated in their one-day walkout.
“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.