Saturday, September 24, 2011

WEA teachers union gambled in Tacoma and lost

The parents and kids really lost. But the union could have had the same agreement in August and not messed up two weeks for 28,000 kids.

Liv Finne is the education specialist at Washington Policy Center; she reports:

Earlier this year, leaders at the statewide teacher union, the WEA, developed a plan to go on strike in local districts that didn’t agree to union demands. In passing New Business Item #6 at their May 12th meeting, union executives outlined a plan for closing schools on days that create maximum disruption for families and children. 
The purpose was to show union power – pick a school district and make an example of it.
At the time no one knew which school district would be targeted. By late August however, it was clear a strike was planned at Tacoma schools, depriving 28,000 children of access to a public education. 
The union closed the schools and, as parents scrambled to make childcare arrangements, a judge ordered teachers back to work. Union executives ignored the order and, along with district officials, were ultimately summoned to the Governor’s office. The strike ended up punishing school children because the adults couldn’t agree on the details of the district’s personnel policy.
The final agreement represents an important victory for students. By gaining flexibility in work assignments district officials will be better able to place the best teachers in the classroom, not just the ones with the most seniority. But the entire conflict could have been avoided. 
What did the strike accomplish? Nothing. Union executives agreed to a proposal they could have accepted months ago, when they were talking with district officials over the summer. Children in Tacoma would have gone to school on time and without incident, just as they did in 294 other school districts. The same result would have been achieved peacefully, without closing schools and without disrupting the lives of thousands of Tacoma families. 
Tacoma union executives gambled and lost. They followed the plan laid out in May in WEA New Business Item #6. They lost in court, lost the unquestioned backing of the Governor, lost the respect of many parents and, most importantly, they needlessly embroiled Tacoma students and their teachers in a public, high-stakes fight that no child should have to witness.

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