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Battle Ground teacher strike draws counter protesters on day seven

Some say they support the teachers, but believe the illegal strike is setting a bad example for students

BATTLE GROUND — Friday marked day seven of the ongoing teacher strike in both Evergreen and Battle Ground school districts.

Perhaps sensing a shift in the public opinion of their efforts to secure a hefty raise, teachers staged a number of community service events Friday. One of those included a carwash outside Battle Ground Cinemas to raise money for the North County Community Food Bank.

But not far away, at the intersection of SR-503 and Eaton Boulevard, a handful of counter-protesters showed up with signs of their own, venting their frustration over a strike they say is illegal and all about “greed.’’

Battle Ground resident Ben Culley protests the ongoing teacher strike. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Battle Ground resident Ben Culley protests the ongoing teacher strike. Photo by Jacob Granneman

“I want to be one person, at least, who stands up and gives some voice to what I think is the silent majority,” said Ben Culley over the honking of passing cars. “It’s the socially accepted position, you know, to honk your horn and root for teachers.”

The people there to protest the teacher strike were eventually greatly outnumbered by supporters of the educators. The two groups mingled, sometimes talking animatedly, but amicably about their differing opinions.

Marina Heinz, a fourth grade teacher at Pleasant Valley and vice president with the Battle Ground Education Association, said they’ve seen a great deal of support around the community, and don’t believe the majority are upset over the strike.

Stephen and Victoria Culley hold signs along SR-503 in Battle Ground protesting the striking teachers. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Stephen and Victoria Culley hold signs along SR-503 in Battle Ground protesting the striking teachers. Photo by Jacob Granneman

“We hope to be back in the classrooms as soon as we can,” says Heinz. “Obviously we’re fighting for all of the McCleary money that’s come down, and that’s why we’re out here. Because we want to stay in Battle Ground, but we recognize that if we need to go to a different district because we need to make more money, some of us are in that boat of having to make that decision.”

The Battle Ground School District insists it is using all of the McCleary funding remaining, after accounting for a cap on local levy money taking effect next year. In a release on Thursday the district said they’re offering a raise of 11.5 percent that would boost the average teacher pay to $74,315 next year. The district is reportedly seeking a one-year deal with a 19.5 percent raise.

Battle Ground resident Tyler Long talks with a teacher while holding a sign protesting their ongoing strike. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Battle Ground resident Tyler Long talks with a teacher while holding a sign protesting their ongoing strike. Photo by Jacob Granneman

Culley says he supports a fair wage for teachers, and supported the last two building bond measures that ultimately failed, but believes the strike is illegal and setting a bad example for kids.

“It sends a message that teachers can do what they want without any fear of repercussions,” says Culley. “I think the numbers that are put out by the unions and the teachers are propaganda. I think it’s really twisted and manipulated.”

That message being sent to kids is also what brought Tyler Long out to support the people protesting the strike.

“I think it sends the message that you can break the law, as long as you get what you want in the end,” says Long. “If they think the McCleary decision is so cut and dried as to what the money should be for, then go to court with it. But they don’t go to court, because they know it’s not for raises.”

Striking Battle Ground teachers held a day of community service events Friday, including a car wash at Battle Ground Cinemas to raise money for the local food bank. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Striking Battle Ground teachers held a day of community service events Friday, including a car wash at Battle Ground Cinemas to raise money for the local food bank. Photo by Jacob Granneman

In Longview, where teachers are also on strike, the district has gone to court. On Friday, a judge ruled in favor of the district, ordering teachers back to school on Monday. The teacher’s union is set to meet Sunday to decide whether to comply with the judge’s order, or defy the court order and continue their strike.

Evergreen School District has not ruled out taking similar legal action, but hasn’t set a firm date. Battle Ground School District has not replied to a question on whether they may consider legal action to force teachers to return to class.

ClarkCountyToday.com’s Jacob Granneman contributed to this report.

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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