June 24, 2002
School board, teachers union strive for contract
by Jeanette Knutson
Teachers in the Northshore School District have ended the school year not knowing how the next school year will begin. If the district School Board and the Northshore Education Association bargaining teams don't come to an agreement about a contract before Aug. 27, the 1,200-teacher union could decide to strike.
In fact, of the 468 teachers present at the June 17 general membership meeting, 93 percent voted to strike if a contract were not ratified Aug. 27.
Compensation, workload, insurance benefits, and workday proposals are issues on the bargaining table, said Tom Carter, chair of the association's bargaining team.
"Obviously," said Pamela Steele, spokeswoman for the district, "the teachers are very concerned about a variety of issues. While their issues are legitimate, we object to their tactics. Districts have no way of coming up with the salaries and benefits teachers want and feel they deserve, given the way we are currently funded. This is not a Northshore issue. It's much bigger than that.
"We remain hopeful that agreement can be reached on a contract by Aug. 27. We are concerned that a strike could potentially alienate our strongest supporters and not achieve the results the teachers want.
"The community has demonstrated a strong support for education with the passage of Northshore levies and bonds, as well as Initiatives 728 and 732. Parents and educators - whether teachers, support staff or administrators - believe how education is currently funded needs to be overhauled. However, how we go about demonstrating our dissatisfaction or frustration remains key. I don't think a strike is the answer," said Steele.
Washington Education Association President Charles Hasse weighed in on the topic of contract negotiations.
"We hope talks will be successful between now and (Aug. 27). Given the current state budget crisis, it's easy to see the tremendous potential for conflict. We are so far behind where we need to be with respect to compensation in the school marketplace. ... The Legislature clearly has not met its responsibility (for helping fund education). On the other hand, school districts have to come up with answers (of their own). It is not appropriate for teachers (low pay) to be the solution to (a pressing statewide) problem," said Hasse.