The Lake Washington Education Association (LWEA) voted to take part in an illegal strike day. The strike day, scheduled for May 6th, is part of a statewide effort organized by local teachers unions, with the support of the Washington Education Association (WEA), to pressure the state Legislature to direct more money to increases in teacher pay and benefits.
The Lake Washington School District superintendent Traci Pierce appeared more than happy to support the local teachers union at the expense of students, even using the preferred language of the WEA in a weak email of explanation to parents. Here’s an excerpt with the WEA’s recognizable language italicized:
“The Lake Washington Education Association (LWEA) voted to join in a statewide action against the legislature to protest the lack of education funding in our state…
“LWEA has selected May 6 as the day for their one-day walkout. Therefore, there will be no school for students on May 6 as teachers will not be at work on that day. LWEA worked closely with the district to schedule this action on a day that would minimize disruption for students and parents to the greatest extent possible…
“It is important for families to know that this LWEA action is not directed at the Lake Washington School District or the Lake Washington communities. We share the LWEA’s concern that the legislature should fully fund basic education. We also understand and appreciate the disruption that this change in schedule may cause for families.”
As Shift recently reported, local teachers unions and the WEA are not happy with the 2015-17 budgets proposed by the state Senate and state House—though, thus far, the WEA has only attacked the Republican-controlled state Senate’s budget. The GOP budget proposal—just like Democrats’ proposal—assigns funding to reduce class-sizes for Kindergarten through the 3rd grade, altering the WEA-sponsored Initiative 1351’s push for class-size reductions that would swell its union dues. The change aligns with research that shows reducing class sizes to the extent demanded by I-1351 has no impact after the 3rd grade. Unlike the Democrats’ plan, Republicans actually deal with I-1351 by sending the change back to voters in a referendum vote.
Local teachers unions and the WEA are attempting to portray the illegal strikes as an effort to benefit the future of our children. Of course, the scheduled illegal teacher strikes are just more of the same from the WEA, this time with the participation local teachers unions. It’s an effort to benefit itself, at the expense of children, and not—as the teachers unions claim—to benefit students.
Following the vote this week, the LWEA sent out an email to its supporters that included some of the following suggested talking points:
“Q. Why do a walkout? Why can’t we do other things to get the Legislature’s attention?
- We have tried everything possible to compel the Legislature to fully fund public education as required by our state constitution. We’ve sued them (and won), we’ve written hundreds of thousands of emails, we’ve sent letters and postcards, we’ve met with legislators, and we’ve held rallies and forums to bring attention to their failure to comply with the Constitution. Walking out is a last resort—nothing short of a work stoppage seems to get their attention.
“Q. Is this a strike against the district?
- Absolutely not. We value the relationship we have with the school district and school board, parents, and the community. We do not take lightly this decision to walk out. We feel it’s the only way we can improve educational funding for the students in Lake Washington.
“Q. What about the inconvenience to parents and students?
- We are very concerned about inconveniencing families, but we hope in the long run the increased funding from the state will benefit their children well into the future. We are committed to working with schools and parents to have the least impact possible on them, since our anger is towards the Legislature, not them. We are working very closely with the district to ensure the least disruption possible.
“Q. Is this legal?
- Yes. We have language in our contract that permits us to participate in a statewide action against the Legislature.”
Of course, the talking points “answers” don’t exactly tell the whole truth. The state Legislature—both the Senate Republicans and House Democrats—produced budgets that meet the state’s constitutional obligations for educational funding and raises teachers’ pay. The state Senate’s budget does it without raising taxes on working Washington families. Additionally, the school districts, parents and students should take the scheduled strikes personally. No matter what union leaders may say to excuse their behavior, it negatively impacts the school districts, it places undue strain on working families and it, effectively, punishes students. Walkouts are, in fact, illegal for that very reason.