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.’’
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.