Bellevue, WA teachers on strike

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Typical start to school year for a labor-state

Teachers here hit the picket lines Tuesday on what was supposed to be the first day of school, as negotiations with the Bellevue School District remained deadlocked. Despite a mediator's presence during negotiations that ran through the long holiday weekend, the union and district were unable to come to terms on compensation and teachers' freedom to stray from the established curriculum. Both sides are scheduled to resume talks with a mediator early Tuesday afternoon.

In the meantime, about 1,200 teachers spent all night making picket signs, and the district's 16,000 students will have an extended summer -- but it's not clear for how long.

"I'm really sad that we're here; sad that we have to be here," said teacher Byona Golding says.

The teachers are demanding more control over their lesson plans, better health care benefits and an 11-percent increase in pay over the next three years.

"Cost of gas is going up, cost of living is going up. So we want to stay competitive and make sure we attract the best," said teacher Randy Litzenberger. "Bellevue kids deserve the best teachers. We want to make sure that happens for the long run."

The district says there's room to be more generous with benefits and allow teachers more control over how they teach, but there is no room in the budget for the pay raise, which would cost the district $3.8 million.

"To offer them what they're asking for would really call for significant cuts in positions, in programs and for class size increases," said school district spokeswoman Anne Oxreider. "I just know there's a sense that we want to keep working on this. We want to get somewhere, but I don't think anybody's predicting the outcome."

In June, the Bellevue Education Association voted strike lines if they did not have a contract by September 2.

"It makes no sense to start school and have poor education where education is lacking in some way," said Michele Miller with Bellevue Education Association. "And so we're asking for some patience until we can guarantee the education they get in the classroom is quality education."

Parents and students who support their teachers' decision are hoping for a quick resolution.

"We really hope there is a compromise and it's reached quickly because there will be consequences for students, teachers and the administration," said student Stephen Bronski.

And for parents who have day care issues.

"(This strike) is very hard to us," said parent Yanan Zhang. "We both have to work and we have no plan for this little one."

Bellevue city leaders said they'll support an expanded Boys and Girls Club day camp on Tuesday to provide child care and could open two additional day camps if the strike continues through Thursday. Extracurricular activities such as after-school sports will go on as scheduled.

The BEA last went on strike 28 years ago.



Anonymous said...

Just one more reason why I support private education.

Anonymous said...

I work for the Bellevue School District, but not as a teacher. So I am out of work as long as they strike. It costs me directly (more than a hundred dollars a day!)

So what?! I support the teachers.

If you go visit Bellevue, you can stop by Medina and see where some of the richest people in the world live. I know many of their children actually attend Bellevue schools. I know because I take them in the morning. And I return them in the afternoon. And I am paid more than my counterparts in the other districts as well.

Have you seen the way the buildings are growing in Bellevue? Rumor has it that they couldn't find enough cranes to rebuild Iraq because they were all being used to build more of Bellevue, Washington.

Yet the district remains scrapped for cash... maybe it has spent too much replacing old schools. They tear down old schools and replace them with brand new ones at the rate of at least one a year. Should the reasons have to be known to the general public?

Or maybe, key administrative personnel are, er, overpaid. Do you think the people putting up information on the district's web site could illuminate that for us as well?

The point is that there is an abundance of wealth in this nation, and particularly in Bellevue. You might expect the teachers to be paid more there. Maybe the good people served by the district would rather buy bigger boats than better teachers. I don't know.

There is a lot of pride in the Bellevue School District. Now it seems time for the administration to step up and justify it. If you really want to be a Bentley/ Landrover school district quit treating your teachers like Volkswagens.

Solidarity now, more than ever.

Oh, and to the previous post: You can have your private education but you better not spend too much building your walls or you won't have enough money for that either!

Anonymous said...

I am highly dissapointed in the Bellevue teachers. They say they are doing this for the children?! No, they are not! They are doing this for themselves. This is all about the money and not the supposed control over curriculum. We all want and need more money but most law abiding citizens don't break the law to blackmail and strong arm people into giving us more. I am very worried about what this is teaching my children. I am afraid they are learning that it is ok to break the law and that there will be no penalties for it.

I want to see the union and teachers punished. They aren't losing anything in this deal but tons of other people are losing a lot of money to extra expensive child care. Plus, what about all the people who work for the schools but aren't teachers. They aren't getting paid either. How is this affecting their families. The unions doesn't seem to care about anyone besides themselves.

The Bellevue teachers are very selfish and self centered. I have no faith or trust in those teachers anymore. I wish I could afford private school for my two chilren. Since I can't I am stuck having my children taught by a bunch of criminals. I feel sorry for my kids.

Anonymous said...

When teachers do things to better their situation, students benefit. Recruitment and retention of quality teachers requires good pay and good working conditions.

I don't think striking is strong-arming. It's a right given to workers to make fair any negotiation about wages or working conditions. Prior to unions, workers had no leverage to bargain with their employers, and laws were created to protect workers so they could have a fair chance in negotiating. The real strong arm is "if you don't like it go somewhere else". Telling teachers to leave the profession or district if they don't like it only hurts the quality of education in the district. And that's what the district is telling them when they keep cutting their pay. I find it strange that the above poster blames the unions for putting people out of work. The school board has no role in this? There was a *negotiation*, both sides came up against a wall and wouldn't budge. If it was unfair, an unfair labor practice would be filed. Union members don't vote for a strike unless they know the employer has the ability to bargain further. Otherwise striking would be counterproductive. Teachers aren't going to vote to strike on wages if they think there's not enough money to get paid a fair wage. Striking is a very difficult undertaking, and no one does it willy-nilly.

And regarding the law…instead of calling teachers criminals, maybe you should ask yourself, "what would drive these people, who already sacrifice so much to take such a low-paying and thankless job to teach my children, to the point of risking arrest by striking?" I don't think "selfishness" is an adequate explanation. You might find that the culprit of the strike is not the teachers but the school board.

You think teachers are that reckless and stupid to vote to strike for the first time in 28 years just for the hell of it? Just because they're "selfish"? You think they can afford not getting paid for the days they're striking?

Think about it.

It disgusts me that in this country teachers practically spat on for accepting the call to one of the most difficult and important jobs in society. Only in America have I seen them treated with such disregard and disrespect. To the above poster: I feel sorry for your kids that you are teaching them to be so disrespectful of their teachers.

Anonymous said...

It is a very complicating problem. I know most teachres works very hard for low salary, but they love their job teaching children. But if only Bellevue teachers are paid much better than other teachers in other cities in WA, I think it is unfair. So that if your city is rich, you can get a better facilities and better education. I am from Japan and usually teachres salary varies prefectre (like State) by prefecture, so if you live in WA, the teachers are paid the same and curricurum should be the same. Of course some schools are better than others because the area, but at least teachers are equally treated and if teachers are paid less, WA state government itself must consider this issue. America is a great country, but recently I feel the richiest can get the best for everything and others just suffer. That is not the America I love.

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