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Teacher Walkouts, By The Numbers: 1 In 4 Washington Kids Now Impacted

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Hundreds of Washington state teachers and other supporters fill the steps of the Legislative Building as they cheer and hold signs Saturday, April 25, at a Washington Education Association rally at the Capitol in Olympia.

Two weeks from now, a teacher walkout will have impacted one out of every four of Washington state's 1 million public school students.

That's after Monday's confirmation teachers in Seattle Public Schools would join colleagues in 28 other districts in approving a "one-day strike" to protest state lawmakers' stances on several key education issues.

Already, more than 68,000 students in 14 districts have watched their teachers walk out — though, because a few of the protests took place during previously-scheduled early release dates, not all of these kids missed classes as a result.

That number will nearly quadruple to more than 265,000 students over the next two weeks, as teachers in 15 more districts from the Columbia River to Whidbey Island hold walkouts of their own.

Credit Kyle Stokes / KPLU / Washington Education Association information
A map showing the 29 school districts in Washington state where local teachers unions have either held or approved a "one-day strike" to protest various education proposals in the state legislature. The districts collectively enroll more than 265,000 K-12 students — one-quarter of the state's total student body.

'They Don't Seem To Be Hearing Us'

"We've discovered that being nice isn't cutting it," said Pam Kruse, head of the teachers union in the Franklin Pierce School District, just south of Tacoma. Teachers there also approved a one-day strike on Monday, and will walk out on Friday.

"We keep speaking nicely to the legislature," Kruse added. "We tell them this is what we would prefer, this is something that would be best for kids, this would be best for our community, and they don't seem to be hearing us."

Protesting teachers union members raise a host of grievances, saying cost-of-living raises in both Republican and Democratic budget proposals do too little to make up for six years of stagnant wages.

Teachers are also dismayed neither party has funded across-the-board class size reductions voters approved in Initiative 1351 this fall. Lawmakers instead have focused instead on Grades K-3, arguing the money is better-spent in grades where smaller classes make the biggest difference.

But rather than make their point on one day, union leaders across western Washington have opted to hold rolling walkouts in an effort to sustain media attention for their cause throughout the special session.

Impact On Parents

As in many other districts where one-day strikes have been held, Seattle's teacher walkout on May 19 will close the schools just like a snow day.

Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp says his union will work over the next few weeks to help line up some options for parents who need childcare.

"We'll be reaching out to some of the community-based organizations to find some support and help in that process, but I do want to stress that parents do now know what the date is and they should be working to make arrangements," Knapp said.

Kruse said union members apologizes for any inconvenience their walkout causes for parents. 

"But it was the only way to get the attention of the legislature," she said, adding parents should "contact the legislature to say how frustrated they are that their schedules were changed just to get their [the legislature's] attention."

This week, teachers will walk out in Northshore (Tuesday), South Whidbey (Tuesday), Central Kitsap (Wednesday), Granite Falls (Thursday), Lake Stevens (Thursday), Snohomish (Thursday) and Franklin Pierce (Friday) school districts. The Washington Education Association's PAC has posted a complete list of districts on its blog.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.