WEA union threatens illegal strikes to close schools again
Aug 22, 2019

The WEA union is threatening illegal strikes to close schools in Kennewick, Seattle, La Center, Ellensburg and Toutle River.

Last year Kennewick teachers got a 12.3 percent pay raise. This year the district has offered an additional 6.3 percent pay raise. Even though the average teacher would get an additional $400 a month in pay, and the new offer would mean raises of nearly 20 percent in two years, the union has rejected the offer as insufficient. Average teacher pay in Kennewick would jump to $78,856, plus $30,000 in benefits. The average salary of the workers in Kennewick who pay these salaries is $42,800. Yet the WEA union wants more.  

These outsized pay demands are forcing districts to make decisions that hurt their educational programs. Some districts have given out such large increases they have to lay off staff. For example, librarians, nurses and young teachers with no seniority have been laid off in Spokane and in Tacoma to fund these pay increases. Districts like Puyallup’s are having to divert money the legislature intended to reduce class sizes. The Mead school district closed an alternative high school for at-risk students.  

Families affected by these strikes are powerless, and can only look on in dismay. Parents of students in Kennewick, and in Seattle, La Center, Ellensburg and Toutle River, are now worrying their schools will not open on time. Working families are scrambling to pay for alternate child-care arrangements. Seniors applying to college are wondering if their transcripts will be ready on time if these strikes last for weeks.

Taxpayers are also powerless. Taxpayers are now shouldering a higher state property tax for schools, imposed by the 2017 Legislature to fulfill the 2012 McCleary court mandate and amply fund the schools. Since the McCleary decision, the legislature has doubled state spending on the schools, from $13.5 billion in 2013 to $27.3 billion for the budget ending in 2021, an increase of 102 percent. Yet what taxpayers get in return is illegal strikes that close the schools and endless demands for more money and higher taxes. 

Fortunately, there is a bright spot. About 3,000 students now attend one of Washington’s successful charter schools. Teachers at these charter schools are joyfully preparing to welcome the return of their students.

At charter schools, the wishes and needs of parents are respected. Charter schools are bringing their communities together in their noble mission of educating their students. Charter schools are not driving communities apart by closing their schools with strikes just as the new school year begins.

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Everyone agrees: documentary pushing destruction of Snake River dams is wrong
Aug 16, 2019

A new documentary called “Dammed to Extinction” has been released in the hopes of pushing politicians to destroy the Snake River dams. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but if the public statements by the producer are indicative, the film is remarkably inaccurate.

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WEA union uses opportunity gap in contract negotiations with Seattle schools
Aug 15, 2019

Right now, in secret behind closed doors, the WEA union is negotiating new teacher contracts with districts across Washington state. To apply pressure on Seattle school administrators, the WEA union has radio ads saying:

“Support for KUOW comes from the Washington Education Association (WEA union), which believes every student deserves a high-quality education to close the opportunity gap.”

This is such a falsehood, especially in connection with union contracts. These contracts make it nearly impossible for traditional schools to close the opportunity gap. The opportunity gap describes the failure of the public schools to educate minority children. 

Here are some of the contract rules contributing to the opportunity gap:   

  1. Teacher tenure. In Seattle’s 2018-19 contract, the union imposed a new Peer Assistance and Review Panel to review all teacher evaluations, adding to the already unreasonably burdensome processes for removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.    
  2. Rigid limits on the hours and days of instruction. Teachers are paid for 190 days of work, but elementary students only get 182 days and middle and secondary students only get 185 days. Every week students in Seattle are released 75 minutes early from school, in a new union benefit called Early Release Days.
  3. Increasing teacher absences. Teachers get 12 general leave days (8 sick; 4 personal), five days of parental leave, three-five days of bereavement leave, one day to appear at a legislative hearing, jury duty, ten days adoption leave and more.
  4. Seniority rules controlling teacher assignment and layoffs, not on what works best for students.
  5. Union rules protecting underperforming school principals.

These union rules block educators from improving the academic learning of all children, especially of minority children. Now the union has the nerve to use the opportunity gap, for which it is partially responsible, to justify imposing even more restraints on the schools.  

Even worse and closely related is the WEA union’s effort to hurt Washington’s charter schools. Charter schools are successfully closing the opportunity gap by helping minority students pass state tests and win acceptance to college. Instead of helping charter schools, the WEA union has had its representatives in the legislature cut their levy and capital funding, in an effort to close them.    

The union hates charter schools because charter schools do not have to operate under these union contracts, and their teachers do not pay union dues.

A more truthful ad would say:

“Support for KUOW comes from the Washington Education Association (WEA union), which does not believe every student deserves a high-quality education, to close the opportunity gap.”

Using the opportunity gap to increase the power and reach of the union is not the only example of injustice in the schools. But it's certainly one of the most galling.

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