Some local teachers’ unions to vote on one-day walkout

Demonstrations aimed at prodding state lawmakers to fully fund education

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter

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Fed up with inaction by state legislators to fully fund basic education, some teachers’ unions in Clark County school districts are taking resolutions to their memberships for a one-day walkout on May 13.

Last week, teachers in a handful of Puget Sound area districts held one-day walkouts to send a message to legislators to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision regarding education funding. On Saturday, more than 4,000 educators rallied in Olympia to tell legislators to abide by the McCleary decision and adequately pay for the state’s public schools. They also said they want lawmakers to pay for an initiative approved by voters last November to reduce class sizes.

If the May 13 walkout occurs, participating districts would have to tack another day onto the end of the school year in June so that students would attend the required 180 days.

At the monthly meeting of the Evergreen Education Association’s representative council Monday night, 116 representatives unanimously approved taking a resolution to their membership recommending the day of action, or one-day walkout, said EEA President Rob Lutz.

Lutz said, he will next take the resolution to union members in each of the district’s schools. After that, a membership vote would occur.

“Should there be sufficient support that school be canceled May 13, we plan to partner with the district to keep all sporting events — things kids look forward to each day — to keep those going,” Lutz said. “This is not an action against Evergreen Public Schools, the district or the patrons.”

Tuesday afternoon, Vancouver Education Association’s executive board voted to support moving the issue forward to its representative council on Tuesday for their vote, said Rick Wilson, the union’s executive director. An informational meeting for the general membership will follow the meeting.

“We want to make sure our members understand what’s happening and that people have ownership,” Wilson said.

If the representative council decides to move forward, all 1,350 members would vote by electronic ballot May 6 and 7, Wilson said.

Wilson emphasized that the proposed one-day walkout is “a day of action and not against the district. Our district was one of the first to jump on the McCleary lawsuit to fully fund education. The district can only do so much. We need to put pressure on the Legislature to do the right thing.”

The Camas Education Association has scheduled a special general membership meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Camas High School to ask its members how they feel about the proposed one-day walkout, said Chris Panell, CEA president.

Panell and other union leadership met with Mike Nerland, the district’s superintendent, Monday and “asked them to join us in this walkout on May 13. They said they’d take that into consideration,” Panell said.

Whether other Clark County teachers’ unions will join in the walkout is unclear. Efforts to reach other local districts’ unions were not successful.

May 13 is already an early-release day for Evergreen’s elementary schools, so parents already would have to arrange special child care.

Lutz pointed out that on a different May 13 — in 1973 — Evergreen district teachers began a strike for collective bargaining rights that sent two educators to jail in contempt of court but eventually led to bargaining rights for educators.