Gaynor’s Automotive – Positive Reviews 728×90

Battle Ground teachers ordered back to work by Clark County judge

Superior Court Judge Scott Collier cited precedent in his decision, and agreed the ongoing strike is harming some Battle Ground students

VANCOUVER — Teachers in the Battle Ground School District will meet this evening to vote on whether or not to defy a court ruling.

This morning a group of teachers filed into the courtroom of Clark County Superior Court Judge Scott Collier, delivering statements from nearly 500 Battle Ground parents stating that the ongoing teacher strike was not causing their children irreparable harm.

Battle Ground teachers and union reps stand outside the Clark County Courthouse before an injunction hearing on Friday. Photo by Chris Brown
Battle Ground teachers and union reps stand outside the Clark County Courthouse before an injunction hearing on Friday. Photo by Chris Brown

ClarkCountyToday.com asked the Battle Ground School District to explain why nearly $10 million had been added to several lines in their new budget, as some community members had brought up. Here is their response:

Q. Why did the Materials and Supplies and Purchased Services budgets increase by $10.2 million in 2018-19 compared to 2017-18?

A. Five line items in the 2018-19 budget increased by a total of $10.2 million for budget contingencies in 2018-19:

  • $7 million unassigned from McCleary budgeted as a contingency in Materials and Supplies and Purchased Services for certificated and classified salary and benefits. When the 2018-19 budget was developed in June, the district had not yet settled with any of its employee bargaining teams, so the total amount needed to budget for salaries and benefits was unknown. The district budgeted a 3.1* percent increase (based on the consumer price index) in expenses for salaries, and budgeted the remaining unassigned from McCleary as a contingency until: 1) contracts are settled, 2) final salary and payroll benefit expenses could be established, and 3) the budget contingency could be assigned to salary and benefits for each employee group. The expenses of settled contracts and current proposals for 2018-19 exceed the unassigned $7 million. (*Compensation increases for the 2018-19 school year are limited to the CPI, with a few exceptions, such as step increases and staffing changes — E2SSB 6362 Sections 204, 207, and 208.)
  • $1.1 million budgeted for student enrollment growth. The district budgets for state apportionment that it expects to receive as a result of increased enrollment. This contingency is also allocated to Materials and Supplies. These funds would provide staffing and student instructional needs (supplies, furniture, etc.) for additional students in the district. If the district’s enrollment does not increase by the budgeted student enrollment projections, the district will not receive these funds from the state nor incur any expenses, therefore it would have a net $0 impact.
  • $1 million building budget carryover in Purchased Services. Schools are permitted to carry over unspent funds from the previous years into the following year’s budget. These funds are managed by each school’s leadership team, which comprises principals and staff. Buildings use these funds to provide for instructional and support needs.
  • $700,000 categorical program carryovers budgeted in Materials and Supplies. These unspent funds are carried over from the previous year into the following year’s budget. The majority of these funds are managed by the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which uses the money to provide skills-based classes to middle and high school students.
  • $400,000 curriculum adoption budgeted in Purchased Services. Battle Ground Public Schools has budgeted $400,000 to help cover the cost of a new high school curriculum for English Language Arts. The adoption is in the final stages.

The district’s attorney argued differently, saying that many children in the district rely on school for a safe and secure place, as well as a meal and education.

“I felt that there was a moment where (the judge) was sympathetic in that there was no evidence of harm done, or irreparable harm,” said Irene Soohoo, a humanities teacher at Pleasant Valley Middle School, after the ruling. “I mean, to say that we’re providing childcare? I mean, well, what does that say? We’re providing childcare? We’re babysitters? And that that’s an inconvenience to parents. Really? I mean, we provide way more than that.”

Collier was clear that his ruling did not have any bearing on the negotiations, which are continuing today and throughout the weekend, but were based on precedent in Washington State that public employee strikes are not protected by the law.

“Taking teachers to court is not a solution. It is a bully tactic and a distraction,” said Battle Ground Education Association Vice President Marina Heinz before the hearing began. “The only place for a fair settlement to be reached with competitive pay to be negotiated is at the bargaining table.”

The judge did order both sides to return to negotiations as soon as possible. Battle Ground Superintendent Mark Ross said he was meeting with his principals, then heading back to continue the bargaining process.

“We just want to get our kids back to school,” Ross said multiple times. “We’ll have to talk to the board about how that will work on Monday but our primary concern is getting our kids back in class.”

Judge Collier asked both sides to return for a check in next Friday morning if a deal hadn’t been reached. Heinz said she remains hopeful that they can close the $4.3 million gap this weekend.

“We want to keep the best educators here in Battle Ground. We want to be here. This is our home,” she said. “We’re dedicated to our families — they will always be ours, the kids will be ours. We’re ready to have this settled.”

At 71-years old, Irene Soohoo says she has been teaching for 45 years, 25 of those in the Battle Ground school district.

“We’ve been really disrespected for years,” she says. “We’ve taken pay cuts, furlough days, we’ve listened to the argument that we’re going to cut staff and so keep staff and take a pay cut and we’ve done that for year after year — I mean, decades. And what has it gotten us?”

Irene Soohoo, who has taught in Battle Ground for 25 of her 45 years as an educator, speaks after a judge ordered striking teachers to return to class. Photo by Chris Brown
Irene Soohoo, who has taught in Battle Ground for 25 of her 45 years as an educator, speaks after a judge ordered striking teachers to return to class. Photo by Chris Brown

As for whether she’ll be back in class on Monday without a deal over the weekend: “Probably not,” says Soohoo. “But I can’t speak for the others.”

Heinz wouldn’t comment about whether she’ll be in class Monday.

“Battle Ground teachers are united,” she said, “and they will not be divided by the distraction that the district has put on them today.”

BGEA Vice President Marina Heinz, a 4th-Grade teacher, speaks before an injunction hearing at the Clark County Courthouse. Photo by Chris Brown
BGEA Vice President Marina Heinz, a 4th-Grade teacher, speaks before an injunction hearing at the Clark County Courthouse. Photo by Chris Brown

Failure to return to class could result in teachers being found in contempt of court, punishable by a possible $1,000 fine.

Earlier this week the district asked for the state’s Public Employee Relations Council to appoint a fact finder. The union on Wednesday asked that the meeting with that fact finder be delayed until Monday. Ross said he’s hopeful, even if a deal isn’t reached this weekend, that meeting on Monday will help to move things along.

“I’d like the fact checking to help us make progress,” says Ross. “I think not having some agreement on the numbers slows down the process, so my hope is with the fact checking we can come to some understanding of the numbers and move forward with the process.”

At last check the district and union were about $4.3 million apart — down from a nearly $9 million gap last week.

Battle Ground Schools Superintendent Mark Ross speaks outside the courtroom after winning an injunction to get teachers back to class. Photo by Chris Brown
Battle Ground Schools Superintendent Mark Ross speaks outside the courtroom after winning an injunction to get teachers back to class. Photo by Chris Brown
We'd love to hear your comments!
Phoenix Technology 728×90

About The Author

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.

Related posts

WorkSource-Why-settle-for-a-job-Healthcare_728x90