“All schools closed August 30 due to teachers strike,” reads an all-caps banner at the top of the Evergreen Public Schools website.
Teachers in Southwest Washington’s largest school district are set to strike Wednesday, becoming the second school system in Clark County to have the first day of school disrupted by unresolved contract talks.
Evergreen teachers have been in talks with the district for months, but have so far been unable to finalize terms of a new contract. Wednesday would have been the first day of school, if not for the work stoppage authorized by the 1,600-member teachers union last week.
The Camas School District is entering its third day of a teacher strike, after hitting picket lines on what would have been that district’s first day of school Monday.
In both districts, adequate pay for teachers is a key sticking point, with Evergreen teachers calling for “promised” pay adjustments to “help attract and retain enough educators,” according to a statement from the Evergreen Education Association. Teachers are also calling for better support for students with disabilities and a solution to a shortage of substitute teachers.
The labor relations page of the Evergreen district’s web site notes that Evergreen teachers would be paid comparatively better than those in nearby districts, under their latest contract offer which includes a 4.7% increase for this school year.
Camas teachers have criticized the school district’s plans for building up budget reserves, rather than increasing pay for teachers. They’ve also called for the new contract to address class size, and support for music and physical education programs.
It’s illegal in Washington state for teachers and other public employees to go on strike, but that hasn’t stopped teachers from using the tactic in recent years.
This is the second year in a row that the start of Washington’s school year is being interrupted by a contract conflict between school administrators and teachers. Last year, Seattle Public Schools was among a number of districts where teachers spent days on picket lines before they resolved a contract and returned to classrooms.