Opinion: WEA union threatens illegal strike to close public schools in Evergreen and Camas

Last week the local WEA affiliate in Vancouver, decided to block kids from school in the Evergreen School District on Wed., Aug. 30, the scheduled first day of class. The union is also threatening Camas school children with a strike. Photo courtesy Liv Finne/Washington Policy Center
Last week the local WEA affiliate in Vancouver, decided to block kids from school in the Evergreen School District on Wed., Aug. 30, the scheduled first day of class. The union is also threatening Camas school children with a strike. Photo courtesy Liv Finne/Washington Policy Center

Liz Finne of the Washington Policy Center offers more insight to the threats made by the WEA union in Clark County last week

Liv Finne 
Washington Policy Center

As families prepare to send children back to school, the WEA union plans to use strikes to illegally close public schools.  We often hear that “No one is above the law.”  That principle should apply to unions too.  To let a union ignore it threatens our democracy. 

Liv Finne
Liv Finne

Last week the local WEA affiliate in Vancouver, decided to block kids from school in the Evergreen School District on Wed., Aug. 30, the scheduled first day of class.  The union is also threatening Camas school children with a strike. The union wants more money, saying: 

“…district management refuses to invest in our schools even though they have the funding for it.”   

The union claims it plans to break the law to “protect students.”  That’s ridiculous.  Illegal strikes hurt students.  State law bars teachers from striking, as it does for other essential services, like fire and police protection.  Instead of teaching civics, the union is telling students it’s ok to undermine our democracy if you can gain something for yourself. 

A strike at Evergreen Public Schools will harm 22,833 students.  Local district employees get good pay, good benefits, a lifetime job, lots of paid vacation and summers off.  For example:   

  • The Evergreen superintendent makes $320,000 in pay plus $74,000 in benefits;  
  • The assistant superintendent makes $242,000 in pay plus $62,000 in benefits;  
  • The district has 30 other administrators who make an average of $159,000 plus $47,000 in benefits;   
  • Average teacher pay is $96,000 plus $35,000 in benefits.  Some teachers make $167,000, all with summers off.  

At the same time Evergreen students are being shorted on their education.  The district failed to educate 75% of students adequately in math and 61% adequately in English.  Here are the academic test results. 

 Illegal strikes are a feature of Washington’s out-moded monopoly public education system.   

Last fall the WEA union shut down Seattle Public Schools to 49,000 students.  As a result more families pulled out, leaving a $131 million deficit.  The Seattle district reports: 

“Enrollment has decreased since fiscal year 2013-14 while staff has increased.”   

Seattle officials now say they will close several Seattle schools in 2024.  Even some members of the press have figured out what is going on here.  Union pay-offs are wrecking school budgets.  

The WEA union now says it wants to close public schools one day a week, and use late starts and early dismissals to cut classroom hours.  State senators Dhingra and Wellman have introduced bills to cut the instruction time.  (Those bills are SB 5735 and SB 5054.) 

Families have noticed the cuts and are leaving the public schools if they can.  To date 46,000 families have pulled out of public schools in favor of homeschooling, private schools and other alternatives.  The trend is national and caring lawmakers in nine states have passed Universal School Choice laws to benefit all families, regardless of the school their children attend. 

At some point even the WEA union may notice, and realize that listening to parents, not illegally blocking school doors, is the best way to help children get the high-quality education they need and deserve. 

Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.

Do you support teacher strikes, even though they violate Washington state law?*
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