More local teachers unions are scheduling illegal strikes for the coming weeks. Seattle teachers recently voted to hold a one-day strike on May 19th—clearly, the Washington Education Association (WEA) and its local affiliates don’t believe lawmakers will wrap-up special session by May 15th or, for that matter, by the end of the month.
As Shift reported, contrary to the claims of the WEA, the teachers’ strikes are, in fact, illegal. It’s up to school boards to take legal action against unions. Unfortunately, given the length of time involved in pursuing legal action, stopping the hastily scheduled, one-day teacher strikes is impossible.
That’s why state Sen. Tim Sheldon—a Democrat member of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus—introduced a measure last month, prior to the end of the 2015 legislative session, that would “forbid school districts from counting days that teachers strike as sick days or snow days.” Currently, school districts add the strikes days as makeup days at the end of the year, meaning teachers receive full pay for them. Under Sheldon’s legislation, teachers would not receive pay for going on strike.
As could be expected, WEA officials did not react well to Sheldon’s proposal. Spokesperson Rich Wood told The Olympianthat Sheldon and “his colleagues should focus on passing an education budget that complies with the state Supreme Court’s order that the Legislature fully fund basic education, rather than punishing striking teachers.”
Apparently, Wood was not informed that the Senate has already passed a budget that does just that. He would make better use of his time asking Democrats in the state House to pass a complete budget by voting on the taxes they proposed to fund their spending package. Of course, he’ll never do that, as the WEA has invested heavily in electing House Democrats over the years.
The WEA continues to exclusively attack Senate Republicans for their budget. Perhaps the most ridiculous line of attack is that the Republicans budget would increase class sizes. In reality, the Senate budget reduced Kindergarten through 3rd grade class sizes—grades when studies prove smaller class sizes make a difference. The spending package proposed by House Democrats would do the same.
A key difference is that Senate Republican’s budget incorporates funding for actually building the classrooms needed to accommodate smaller class sizes. Democrats do not.
So, why is the WEA targeting Republicans exclusively if it is so unhappy with the budget? Why are Democrats off the WEA’s radar? Because, as is so often the case with the WEA, the illegal strikes are not about improving education for children.
The WEA is concerned about what it’s always been concerned about: itself. That’s why the WEA is making a political pointwith its highly partisan attack strategy. The WEA knows that Democrats will bend to its will with a show of political force—since it donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrat candidates every election cycle to preserve its influence. Democrats have placed the WEA’s demands ahead of their constituents’ needs before, and the WEA knows that—with a little push—they’ll do it again. Republicans, on the other hand, present the real problem to the WEA growing its forced-dues donor base, hence the ridiculous attacks.