Unwarranted teacher strikes for education funding

The Seattle Times editorial board says the Washington Education Association does its members and students a disservice with planned teacher strikes.  The editorial emphasizes a key point: The House and Senate budgets are good news for education.

Instead of striking, teachers across Washington state should be celebrating.

The Legislature has broadly agreed on an increase of at least $1.3 billion this biennium to reduce class sizes, fund full-day kindergarten and give teachers a cost-of-living raise. It is a massive, meaningful investment.

 It is. So you have to wonder what’s going on. Did the WEA not realize, as just about everyone else who looked at I -1351 realized, that the class size reduction initiative was a bridge too far? This late in the session, about all that’s worth debating is how to close the gap between the two chambers. Expecting a final budget that adds billions in new spending on top of what lawmakers have already agreed to, while scuttling reforms, makes little sense. 

But, as the Olympian reports, that seems to be the point of the rolling district strikes.

Besides protesting legislative plans to scale back Initiative 1351, the teachers object to proposals that would mandate the use of statewide testing data in teacher and principal evaluations and Senate plans for pay and benefits that they say are insufficient.

The Olympian also notes skepticism from a key advocate for education funding.

State Superintendent Randy Dorn, who leads the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, issued a written statement calling the walkouts “the wrong approach,” noting such an action “creates chaos in families that will need to arrange for child care.”

Dorn added that lawmakers in recent days had public hearings on proposals to boost state funding of teacher salaries and are addressing some of teachers’ concerns.

“I question why they are walking out,” Dorn’s statement said.

As the paper notes, there’s no legally protected right to strike for public employees, but also no penalty if the do.

Other public employees are rallying for full funding of the collective bargaining agreements. The governor and the House both endorse the CBAs; the Senate rejects the negotiated plans and offers an alternative.