The latest update on proposed teacher strikes over Initiative 1351 funding appears to be spreading.  The Washington Policy Center (WPC) reported Tuesday at least 8 West side districts will be closed April 21st, affecting over 40,000 students. This despite the FACT that by state law, teacher strikes are illegal.

The teachers, who are actually receiving support from the Washington Education Association (WEA-the teachers union), are upset the legislature won't pass funding to fulfill the mandates of I-1351.  Passed by voters last November, the initiative was portrayed by the WEA as a way to reduce class sizes WITHOUT tax hikes.

But the bill was hollow.  It did not contain ANY funding sources, making it an unfunded liability. Pass it now, worry about money later.  Millions will be needed to hire the estimated 4,000 educators mandated in the bill to reduce class sizes.  The GOP-led Senate has refused to allocate funding, or suggest tax hikes, and the state doesn't have the money. Existing legal requirements already require billions to be spent on education in the state budget.

The affected districts include Lakewood, Arlington, Blaine. Mt. Vernon, Bellingham, Sedro-Wooley, Standwood and Camano. According to WPC, the move could result in significant disruption for those area families, but WEA official Rich Wood says the union may EXPAND the strikes to include other communities.

Here's what the WEA is NOT telling parents, though.

  • Teachers receive above-average income.  Most teachers across the state earn more than the state average income, coupled with very generous health and retirement benefits, and they're paid over a ten-month calendar, which provides more economic benefit during a shorter term. The average teacher in Arlington receives about $98,000, in the Ferndale, $92,000 -including benefits - for a ten month school calendar year.
  • Students in these 8 districts, and any others where strikes may occur, will HAVE TO MAKE UP THE STRIKE DAY before the end of the year.  Strike days are treated the same as snow or bad-weather days.
  • School teacher strikes are against the law.  However this state mandate is rarely enforced.  The WEA has used strikes to close schools in Marysville, Kent, Tacoma  and Bellevue, and in 2013, says the WPC, used them in Seattle to gain more financial benefits.

The strikes are expected to take place Wednesday, April 21st.  The WEA has not given any information as to which other districts they may try to expand the strikes to.