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Tacoma teachers defy court order, continue strike
Walkout goes into 4th day in Tacoma schools
Question of the Day
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Teachers in Washington state’s third-largest school district voted overwhelmingly Thursday to remain on strike in defiance of a judge’s order that they return to work.
Some 93 percent of the nearly 1,600 teachers gathered at the Tacoma Dome arena said they wanted to keep picketing.
The Tacoma School District teachers walked out Tuesday over issues including pay and class size, and how job transfers are handled. A state judge issued an order Wednesday that they go back to class, but the teachers refused.
Many students have joined the picket lines and hundreds rallied in front of the Tacoma Dome before and during Thursday’s vote.
Rebecca Jimenez, a senior at Foss High School, said she was hoping the teachers would continue their strike.
“I think it’s a good example to show. If you’re going to do something, stick with it. Don’t give up,” she said.
Tacoma Education Association President Andy Coons said Thursday’s vote was a sign that teachers agree.
“Each time we have this vote, it gets stronger,” he said.
The contract issues being debated in Tacoma are echoed across the nation as school districts grapple with federally mandated school reform. The U.S. Department of Education wants every state and school district to update the way they evaluate teachers, and a weak economy has most states struggling to find enough money to pay teachers.
In Tacoma, the school district announced within an hour of the union vote that school would be canceled for a fourth day on Friday. While 28,000 students stayed home Thursday, representatives of the union and school district met with a state mediator.
On Friday, both sides will meet with Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff, who has scheduled a hearing to determine whether the union and the district are complying with his order for teachers to return to work and both sides to return to the negotiating table.
The 1,900 teachers have been working without a contract since school started Sept. 1. After weekend contract negotiations failed to result in an agreement, 87 percent of the union’s membership voted to walk out.
Christy Wray, who teaches kindergarten at Whitman Elementary, has been with the school system during the past three Tacoma teacher strikes, including one in the 1970s and another in the 1990s. The teacher of 41 years said it was different this time.
“The issues in the past couple of strikes were transparent, and both sides worked toward reaching an agreement,” she said as she stood outside Lincoln High School. “This strike, we’re being treated like we’re naughty children.”
A 2006 state attorney general’s opinion said state and local public employees, including teachers, have no legally protected right to strike. But that opinion also noted state law lacks specific penalties for striking public employees.
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