WEA union rules to make Edmonds Schools lay off 45 young teachers

May 7, 2019

Tomorrow the Edmonds School Board is likely to lay off some 45 classroom teachers. Thirty of the 45 teachers targeted for layoffs have worked for less than three years, reports the Everett Herald. The blame for these layoffs lies squarely with the WEA union. Last fall, the WEA union threatened to close schools with strikes, so the Edmonds School Board gave 20% pay raises to the most senior teachers, boosting their pay to $114,200, plus another $32,000 in benefits, for a ten-month work year.  (Average worker pay in Washington state is $61,000.)

The move put the Edmonds budget into deficit.  Now, under the union's "last-in-first-out" rule, young teachers will be fired to free up money to pay the high salaries of their older peers.  At the same time, Edmonds school officials have $321 million, more money than ever.  At $15,600 per student, public schools there get more money than private schools.

The trend is being repeated across the state.  WEA union action forced many districts to give double-digit pay raises to senior employees.  Then, using its extensive political clout, the WEA union pushed the legislature to raise taxes and give $4.4 billion more to schools, raising state education spending from $22.8 to $27.2 billion.  Lawmakers also cancelled local tax relief, meaning districts will soon be raising local school taxes too.

Yet, despite being flush with cash, the Edmonds School District and many others still plead poverty. 

The young teachers targeted for layoffs in Edmonds are recent graduates in their first jobs. They are raising families, settling into their new communities, and just trying to make ends meet.  Some may be the best-qualified and hardest-working educators, but that doesn't matter to the union.  Sacrificing the careers of young teachers is just one part of the WEA union's ruthless seniority system.

In all my years of working for strong policies that benefit children, it's depressing to watch the union's relentless power over public education.  One can only hope that young teachers who get pink slips next week will leave union membership (now allowed under the Supreme Court's Janus decision), and find another teaching job, perhaps at a charter public school where unions have less control.

I believe teachers are better off without oppressive union oversight.  Teachers deserve respect as professional educators, to be valued and respected and, yes, well paid, for their skill in the classroom, instead of being treated like nameless cogs in an unfeeling union machine.