ON STRIKE: Southern Washington Educators

A huge picket line stretched nearly a half mile around the Washington State Evergreen Public Schools headquarters on Sept. 1. It was the first day of school, and 1,500 educators from Evergreen County, on the third day of their strike, were joined by 450 Camas County educators who had been out since Aug 28. Evergreen School District No. 114 is a public school district in the state’s Clark County, and serves the city of Vancouver, Washington.

Sarah from Portland Jobs with Justice traveled to Southern Washington to support the teachers strike. credit: WW Lyn Neely

Passing cars honked, and chants rose from a sea of red Tee-shirt-wearing teachers, all carrying strike signs reading “Evergreen Education Association: ON STRIKE!” Numerous local area businesses put up signs in their windows supporting the educators’ strike.

Both districts are fighting for more support for special education students, more substitute teachers, smaller class sizes, more resources and better pay. They are also demanding equitable distribution of funding between music, libraries and health and physical education.

Washington state is attempting to implement a new model for special education students to spend more time in the general education classrooms. However, special education teachers on the Sept. 1 picket line said they are excited by the new model, but it has been failing, because they have not been given the time, training or support to implement it properly.

In spite of it being illegal for Washington teachers to go on strike, there have been a number of strikes in the state in recent years. Last year, Seattle Public Schools joined a number of districts where teachers were striking.

Teachers in the Battle Ground School District are not striking but are working without a contract and fighting the district to get one.

The strikers were joined by the Washington Education Association union president, Larry Delaney, who said, “These are people who put their heart and soul into their work, and they just want to be respected. … The organization that (the union) has shown is off the charts,” he said. “There have been some strikes in the past where we’ve been building the plane in the air, but this union put weeks of work into this to make sure they were ready to stand up.” (tinyurl.com/4vxwbp2j)

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