Teachers union in Bellevue goes on strike to keep schools closed

Jan 21, 2021

A divisive teachers strike has hit the Bellevue School District, upsetting parents, students, and the entire community. Bellevue’s school board had arranged for 700 young second-graders to return to their classrooms today, Thursday, January 21, with health safeguards in place.  This is the first day Bellevue schools would be open to second-graders since the governor’s order closed all schools last March 21.

Yet two days before Bellevue schools were due to open the local teachers’ union voted to strike, refusing to welcome the second-graders to their classrooms. Superintendent Ivan Duran responded to the crisis by quickly arranging for the children to have substitute teachers. Further, I learned this afternoon that he is taking the union to court. Superintendent Duran is clearly putting the learning, social and emotional needs of young children ahead of the political agenda of the local union.

Here is more detail. Since September the Bellevue School District, a district of 20,000 students, has provided in-person instruction to a limited 800 students. The district has had zero in-building COVID-19 transmissions.

In November Superintendent Duran reached an agreement with the union to safely phase in the return of the youngest students to their classrooms. Teachers promised to provide in-person instruction, beginning with kindergarteners and 1st graders, and followed on January 21st by second-graders. On Tuesday, however, unionized teachers broke the agreement and voted to strike. They also refuse to provide remote learning for all 20,000 students in the Bellevue School District for the remainder of this week, imposing more pain and confusion on families. 

The divisive events in Bellevue follow a familiar pattern of union conflict in Washington state. The unions are signaling their refusal to return to school this spring, even with health safety measures in place, and even if COVID transmission numbers are minimal.

For nearly a year we have been told “We’ll get through this together” and that we must put aside political divisiveness and promote unity in our communities.  Now we learn that Bellevue schools developed a safe-open plan for young children, only to have the union walk out on the agreement.

Most families in Washington have had enough of lock-downs, school closings, conflict and rancor, and look instead for unity, peace and collaboration.  The question now before the legislature is whether these teacher strikes and union delay tactics will spread, and keep Washington’s schools closed to students.