Teachers ready to strike if lawmakers don’t deliver

State Legislature faces June 30 deadline to pass 2-year budget, fix education funding
By Nicholas Johnson | Jun 07, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Pilchuck UniServe Council representative Arden Watson introduces a resolution Friday, June 2, that would allow the Mukilteo Education Association to meet in August to decide whether to strike or take some other action depending on how the state Legislature handles its court-ordered responsibility to fully fund public education.

Members of the Mukilteo Education Association voted unanimously by voice Friday afternoon to consider a strike in August if state lawmakers fail to find a way to fully fund education.

Nearly 300 of the association’s 995 members attended the meeting at Mariner High School. They made quick work of passing a resolution authorizing union leadership to call a general membership meeting in August to decide whether to strike or take some other action.

“None of us want to strike or walkout,” said Fairmount Elementary School teacher Kari Woodard, who made the motion to approve the resolution. “If the Senate Republicans’ budget were to be passed as it is right now, that would warrant some action.”

Association President Dana Wiebe said a key issue for teachers in Mukilteo is preserving their right to collect bargaining.

“I know that collective bargaining restrictions would bring push back,” she said. “Someone in Olympia can’t tell us in Mukilteo what we need because they are not in our classrooms working with our kids. Anytime they are trying to take away local control and restrict local bargaining, that’s a problem for us.”

Wiebe said Mukilteo teachers are “adamantly” opposed to the Senate Republican budget released during the regular session. It would limit collective bargaining, jeopardize special education funding, eliminate requirements and incentives for teacher certification, and switch to a per-pupil allocation model that does not account for materials and support staff the way the traditional prototypical funding model does, she said.

Unlike the Democratic budget proposal, the Republican proposal would restrict teachers’ ability to negotiate additional pay with district administration. That pay, called TRI, is provided on top of what state formulas offer, amounting to nearly 20 percent of teacher salaries.

It’s their mortgages, it’s their child’s education in college, and for some it’s extra medical costs,” Wiebe said. “A big portion of our teachers say they wouldn’t be able to stick around without that extra pay.”

Friday’s vote followed the Everett Education Association’s approval of a similar resolution a day earlier. Like teachers in Everett, Mukilteo’s teachers are some of the highest paid in the state. Wiebe said that’s a result of strong bargaining and is nothing to be ashamed of.

“I recognize we are one of the outliers, but I think we should be the standard,” she said. “We feel teachers statewide should be paid more, but not by taking away our ability to bargain locally and decide what we need locally. We want to attract the best educators in the state, in the country, and keep them here, and we’re not ashamed of that.”

Woodard said despite Mukilteo teachers’ relatively high pay, the cost of living in Mukilteo is often too great for many teachers.

“There are many people teaching in the Mukilteo School District who can’t afford to live in their own community, so they are commuting,” she said.

Now in its second special session, the Legislature has until midnight on June 30 to pass a two-year operating budget or the state government would shut down.

Lawmakers are working to comply with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that requires full funding of the state’s basic education system by Sept. 1, 2018. The court has said lawmakers must determine exactly how to do that and how to pay for it before this year’s legislative session ends.

In 2015, the Court held the Legislature in contempt for not making enough progress, imposing a daily fine of $100,000.

“A strike may be one thing that we are discussing in August, but we will wait to see what the Legislature actually does, if anything,” Wiebe said. “We work hard to our jobs, and it’s about time they did theirs.”

Comments (2)
Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jun 07, 2017 12:52

I don't believe threatening illegal teacher strikes are productive.

Posted by: Joe Kunzler | Jun 07, 2017 12:55

Let me also say it would be 1,001 more times productive to have a big protest on the weekend and bring working families into the discussion than put more strain on working families and more community disruption.  I'm sure Mukilteo City Hall would be more than happy to help with the parade permit paperwork...

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