Monday, March 1, 2021
March 1, 2021

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Teachers poised for one-day walkout

Protest will close schools in four districts Wednesday

By , Columbian Education Reporter, and
, Columbian Small Cities Reporter
Published:

Wednesday Walkout

School districts closed: Camas (393 teachers), Evergreen (1,800 teachers), Hockinson (103 teachers) and Washougal (195 teachers); total of 2,491 teachers serving about 38,000 students.

School districts open: Battle Ground, Green Mountain, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Woodland.

What’s canceled

• Schools in the affected districts will be closed.

What’s not canceled

• Nationally scheduled Advanced Placement tests.

• High school athletic games scheduled with other schools.

• Evening parent meetings and facility use scheduled by outside organizations.

Rallies

All teachers walking out: Day of Action Rally, 11 a.m. to noon at Esther Short Park, Columbia and West Eighth streets, downtown Vancouver. Teachers from all school districts participating in the walkout will gather at the park.

In addition, teachers’ unions will stage informational picketing at the following locations on Wednesday:

Camas teachers: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Crown Park, 15th Avenue and Everett Street, Camas; also from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 34th Street, near the QFC.

Evergreen teachers: 9 to 10:30 a.m. at four locations: Heritage High School zone, state Highway 500 and Northeast Fourth Plain Road; Evergreen High School zone, Northeast Burton Road and 112th Avenue; Mountain View High School zone, Southeast Chkalov Drive and Mill Plain Boulevard; and Union High School zone, Southeast 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.

Hockinson teachers will join Evergreen teachers at Southeast 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.

Washougal teachers: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 34th Street, near the QFC store.

Wednesday Walkout

School districts closed: Camas (393 teachers), Evergreen (1,800 teachers), Hockinson (103 teachers) and Washougal (195 teachers); total of 2,491 teachers serving about 38,000 students.

School districts open: Battle Ground, Green Mountain, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Woodland.

What's canceled

• Schools in the affected districts will be closed.

What's not canceled

• Nationally scheduled Advanced Placement tests.

• High school athletic games scheduled with other schools.

• Evening parent meetings and facility use scheduled by outside organizations.

Rallies

All teachers walking out: Day of Action Rally, 11 a.m. to noon at Esther Short Park, Columbia and West Eighth streets, downtown Vancouver. Teachers from all school districts participating in the walkout will gather at the park.

In addition, teachers' unions will stage informational picketing at the following locations on Wednesday:

Camas teachers: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Crown Park, 15th Avenue and Everett Street, Camas; also from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 34th Street, near the QFC.

Evergreen teachers: 9 to 10:30 a.m. at four locations: Heritage High School zone, state Highway 500 and Northeast Fourth Plain Road; Evergreen High School zone, Northeast Burton Road and 112th Avenue; Mountain View High School zone, Southeast Chkalov Drive and Mill Plain Boulevard; and Union High School zone, Southeast 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.

Hockinson teachers will join Evergreen teachers at Southeast 164th Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard.

Washougal teachers: 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Southeast 192nd Avenue and 34th Street, near the QFC store.

The debate over school funding will hit home Wednesday when nearly 2,500 teachers walk off the job in a one-day protest that will shutter schools for about 38,000 students in the Camas, Evergreen, Hockinson and Washougal districts.

The walkout is part of a “day of action” that will see similar strikes at more than 20 school districts across the state. Teachers at some districts where a strike wasn’t authorized by union members will still picket before and after school.

At issue is the failure of state legislators to fully fund education despite a Washington Supreme Court ruling, called the McCleary decision, requiring them to do so. Teachers are also protesting the lack of a cost of living adjustment for the past six years and the reluctance of lawmakers to address a voter-approved initiative to decrease class sizes.

Union leaders say they hope the walkout will send a message to Olympia and provide an opportunity for teachers to share their concerns with people in their communities.

‘Day of action’

Camas, Evergreen, Hockinson and Washougal districts will be closed Wednesday, with the missed day made up at the end of the school year. Teachers from those districts will picket in the morning at locations throughout the county before gathering for a rally at 11 a.m. at Esther Short Park, Columbia and West Eighth streets, in downtown Vancouver.

Teachers from Battle Ground, Green Mountain, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Woodland did not approve a walkout. Those schools will remain open, but teachers in Vancouver Public Schools plan to picket high-traffic intersections from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Vancouver teachers also plan to gather Saturday in the free-speech zone at Esther Short Park during Vancouver Farmers Market, said Rick Wilson, executive director of the Vancouver Education Association.

“We need to get the attention of the Legislature,” said Wilson.

La Center teachers plan to picket before and after school at East Fork Lewis River Bridge before and after school, said Liz Crandall, president of La Center Education Association.

Teacher compensation

Teachers in Clark County are paid a base pay according to the state allocation model. Additional compensation is determined in local negotiations between the teachers’ union and the school district. Total salary packages vary from district to district, said Rob Lutz, Evergreen Education Association president.

In Evergreen, Vancouver and Battle Ground districts, the base pay of a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is $34,048. Additional compensation is negotiated. The maximum base pay in Clark County for an experienced teacher is $64,174. The average teacher salary is $49,870 in Battle Ground, $51,835 in the Vancouver school district and $60,980 in the Evergreen school district.

Teachers in Washington are paid for 180 instructional days. Districts require teachers to work additional days for training, and teachers are paid additional money for those days. The pay varies in each district, based on negotiated contracts.

During the school year, most teachers work more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay, putting in time before and after school and on weekends, preparing lesson plans, grading papers, calculating and posting students’ grades, and reaching out to parents.

Teachers typically have a two-week break at Christmas, a week in the spring and about a seven- or eight-week summer break. None of this time away from school is paid time.

At private companies in the U.S., the typical worker gets 10 days of paid vacation and six paid holidays per year. That’s 16 days of paid leave, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think-tank. That means the typical American works 245 days per year. About a quarter of U.S. workers receive no paid vacation or holidays.

During the summer, teachers often take college classes. The state requires most teachers to continue earning college credits until they retire. Some districts reimburse teachers for continuing education via professional development money, which teachers can use for college tuition, professional certification and more. Battle Ground teachers can receive up to $200 per school year for professional development, Vancouver teachers can receive up to $1,200 and Evergreen teachers can receive up to $1,500.

Letters to parents

In the four Clark County districts where teachers are walking out, superintendents sent letters home to parents. All used similar language.

“The School Board and administration agree that lawmakers have failed to fully fund K-12 education for too many years,” wrote Mike Nerland, superintendent of Camas Public Schools. “However, we don’t believe pulling all teachers out of classrooms for a day is the way to convey this message to our legislators. We apologize for the challenge this presents to our students, families, community, and staff.”

“The district was not consulted by the EEA (teachers’ union) in this decision, and this is not an action the district endorses or supports since it is an interruption to our students’ education and our community,” wrote John Deeder, superintendent of Evergreen Public Schools. “While the district also believes the legislature should fully fund schools, we don’t believe pulling all teachers out of the classroom for a day is the way to convey this message.”

Mark Hottowe, superintendent of Battle Ground Public Schools, said he was pleased the district’s teachers won’t be walking out.

“While I don’t support the efforts to walk out, I’m upset,” said Hottowe. “Legislators had 105 days in which to consider the elephant in the room. Education was the primary issue of this session. But they waited until the end of the session to barely scratch the surface. They had to go into a special session. They should have considered education funding in the first part of the session. Many of us believe that they are not taking seriously that they’re in contempt (of the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision).”

Because the Legislature hasn’t passed a budget, school districts aren’t sure how much money they will have next school year. In Battle Ground, where hundreds of new homes are being built, the district may not know until August whether they will have money to hire additional teachers. By then, he said it would be a scramble to hire new teachers.

“The Legislature knows we can’t do any work until they give us money,” Hottowe said. “They knew that in January, and they chose not to act. If this was the first time it had occurred, perhaps we would have been more tolerant, but it continues year after year.”

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