Nearly 7,000 teachers in 10 school districts in the Western part of Washington state shut down the first day of the school year over low pay.
Local Fox affiliate Q13 reported that thousands of teachers in the Tacoma, Puyallup, Tukwila, Tumwater, Centralia, Stamwood-Camano, Rainer, Evergreen, Battleground, and Longview school districts shut down school on the first day of class due to the strike, affecting more than 120,000 students. The Tacoma school district is the largest one participating in the strike, with more than 5,000 employees and 30,000 students.
Even though the strike is keeping their children out of school, parents largely supported the teachers’ demands.
“[Teachers] work hard. We trust them with our kids. I think they do a good job and they need more money,” parent Kim Douvia told local news outlet KIRO. “I just can’t help but feel for them. They feel like they deserve more and I am going to support them.”
While the Washougal school district was participating in the strike, NBC affiliate KGW 8 reported that the teachers and the school district had reached a tentative agreement. Teachers went on strike calling for a fair contract that not only included a pay increase, but also promised to keep class sizes and special education caseloads manageable. If the agreement is signed by both union representatives and district officials, classes will start Friday morning.
However, teachers elsewhere are still pushing for better contracts with their respective school boards. In the Puyallup school district, where teachers are striking for the first time in 72 years, teachers argued the current proposed raise of six percent is not enough, given that other school districts like Seattle have given teachers contracts with double-digit pay raises.
The teacher strikes in Washington state come during a year in which teachers across multiple states, including Colorado, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona demonstrated for pay raises and higher public education budgets in the spring. According to data from the National Education Association, average teacher pay has actually decreased by four percent between the 2008-2009 academic year and the most recent 2017-2018 academic year, when accounting for inflation. Average teacher pay in Washington state is $54,433, ranking the state #25 out of all states.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.