May 11

Why are Chimacum Schools Having a 1 Day Strike?

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Some Rights Reserved

The short answer was best said by Malala Yousafzai, “Education for EVERY child.” [Emphasis my own.]

Friday, May 15, Chimacum School District educators voted unanimously to join many other schools in Washington state in what are being called rolling walkouts. (See this article in a local WA newspaper, the Peninsula Daily News.) Schools all over our state are having one day walkouts, or strikes, to urge our state government to fully fund public education. By fully funding public education we are investing in our future. By showing ALL children in our state that we care enough to provide them with the best education we are investing in our future. Both my children attend Chimacum Schools. My son will be graduating this year so he is a home grown Chimacum student, K-12. My daughter is in 6th grade this year so has years to go before she graduates from Chimacum. They deserve a quality public education just like every child in our state. In our country. In our world.

Chimacum School District (CSD) is a small district. We have somewhere around 70 certificated teachers. Why would a school as small as ours even bother to strike? I mean we have a very supportive community who passes levies for our children, so why put them through having to find child care for a day or having to take their kids to work or having to leave their kids at home?? Frankly, it shouldn’t matter how small a school district we are. If big school districts can let our legislators know that they aren’t sufficiently funding education and that we, as parents and voters and public school employees, are urging them to do just that, then even tiny, little CSD can join in having our voices heard. But CSD is not just any school district in WA state. CSD is THE district where Stephanie McCleary works. CSD is THE district where Mrs. McCleary worked in 2007 when she and her husband agreed to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the State of WA for not fully funding education. (See The McCleary Case. See a copy of the actual lawsuit.) We felt the need to stand behind Mrs. McCleary and the stand she made for ALL our children.

Sure, we could have said no. Let’s sit back and continue writing letters and sending emails. Let’s continue Tweeting and sharing on Facebook. But you know what? We’ve been doing that. For years. And things have gotten a little better. But we’re not there yet. And we’re too close now to stop fighting for our kids. The lawsuit against the state of WA was filed in December of 2007. The purpose of the lawsuit was to define and get the WA legislature to follow the following article in our state’s constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Article IX, Section 1, Washington State Constitution.

A Seattle Superior Court found in favor of the plaintiff on all counts in 2009. The state appealed and in January of 2012 the WA State Supreme Court upheld the Seattle court’s original ruling. There is no doubt. It’s the right thing to do by our kids. It’s the law for goodness sake. Our state has until 2018 to increase funding and do right by our kids.

What is the state not doing or not doing well?

  • Voters in this state approved Initiative 1351 to lower class sizes for K-12. Kids in middle and high school deserve lower class sizes too. Teacher-student relationships can happen with lower class sizes. It’s what our kids deserve. Both chambers want to cancel I-1351! Both chambers and the Governor want to reduce the funding to K-3. This is not what voters asked for.
  • Testing, Common Core, and our teacher evaluation work just fine without high stakes. I’ve written plenty about standardized testing. Standards and testing are meant to be used to help kids not hurt kids. We are urging for a REDUCTION in testing requirements for our kids. Tying test scores to evaluations has been proven to NOT work and yet that’s what our legislators are pushing for. No.
  • The state conservatively anticipates $3 billion in revenue over the next biennium yet the Senate’s proposed budget would provide $1.3 billion on unreliable revenue forecasting methods. The House budget anticipates $1 billion in revenue due to a capital gains tax. (WEA – our state’s teacher union – is my source.)
  • Education is budgeted somewhere around $1 billion yet in two days the legislature found $9 billion to support Boeing. It seems that they can find funding. (WEA – our state’s teacher union – is my source.)
  • Legislators will receive an 11.2% increase in pay this year. Teachers have NOT received a Cost of Living Allocation (COLA) increase in six years! (I personally have been taking home approximately $100/month LESS each year for the past four years. That means I make $400 less per month now than I did in 2011. I can’t continue to live this way. Remember, a COLA is NOT a pay increase. We’re just asking to have our salaries reflect the increased cost of living. When the state was low on revenue teachers didn’t strike when they decreased our pay and took away our COLA. We didn’t agree to that forever though!
  • Health insurance costs continue to rise yet our health insurance funding has not increased. Well, health care funding has not increased for teachers. State employees will get a health care funding increase, EXCEPT for teachers. What is up with that?!? I know health care is tough all over but when health care is factored into my yearly salary to make it look like I’m making a LOT more than I actually am that’s not telling the whole story. It’s downright misleading. I’m not living high off of any hog. I pay close to $500/month to have health care for my family. So in effect health care is costing me a pretty penny.

Until the WA State legislature increases funding so that schools can lower class sizes and caseloads K-12, until the WA State legislature increases salaries to get and retain high quality teachers and substitutes, and until the WA State legislature increases health care insurance funding equitable to other state employees our work will not be done and they will NOT be fulfilling their PARAMOUNT duty of making ample provisions for ALL children in our state to have the education they deserve. The education afforded to all citizens of this great country.

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    • Aaron on May 14, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Good luck with your efforts. Truly shameful that you’re not getting enough support up there in Washington. I’ve been teaching English in Taiwan for the last two years, and I’m coming back after this school year to teach in the USA somewhere. I’m not looking forward to all the bull$#!+ politics. It’s tempting to stay right where I’m at.

    Anyway, I had a question. I suppose the argument for using test scores to evaluate teachers is 1)This might MOTIVATE teachers to teach in more effective ways that they haven’t tried before and 2) This way we can say that “good teachers” are getting the recognition they deserve, and “bad teachers” are getting the consequences they deserve. Regardless of whether this works or not, I’m just curious, do you feel that there is a motivation problem among teachers? Do decision makers need to spend more time thinking about how to motivate teachers?

  1. Hey Aaron,

    Thanks, I’m hoping these walkouts bear fruit because all the letter writing, visiting the capitol, and talking with and inviting legislators into our classrooms hasn’t yielded the results we’re after. Of course, those who are listening, reading, and visiting our classrooms are NOT the ones we need to convince! Ain’t that always the case. It does seem tempting to stay away from the US!

    Now, to answer your question, I do feel there is a motivation problem among teachers but a huge part of the motivation problem stems from over testing our students and tying those test scores to our evaluations. If I worked at a school where that had been the case I might be burned out by now. I cannot see any way to be motivated to teach effectively or innovatively if I’m trying to get my students to pass a standardized test no matter how good the test is. Teaching to a test results in narrow teaching and, as we’ve seen in the news, frustrates some teachers and schools to cheat! So much research out there shows us that using carrots and sticks is very ineffective to motivate people and horribly wrong to get creativity or innovation!

    Decision makers DO need to spend more time thinking about motivating teachers and we, THE TEACHERS, have the answer. 1. Pay us well enough that security and feeding our families is not an issue (that includes health care). 2. Provide systems to help the needs of children that teachers cannot provide, such as mental health, so that discipline can be handled well within the school. 3. Provide the funds needed to adequately educate children so that we can bridge the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. 4. Get rid of the whole accountability thing (see how Finland doesn’t even have a word for that) and use professional learning communities, team-teaching, and other cooperative methods of teacher support to train teachers to do their job and to try innovative ways of reaching all of their students. Stop calling it evaluation: The evaluation system we have here in WA State is pretty good because it’s a growth model. The ONLY reason Dept of Ed has a problem with our system is because we give teachers the choice whether or not test scores should factor into their evaluation. They don’t want to let the professionals who are actually working with students the choice. That is so damn stupid. See, that’s what crushes motivation.

    Those are the ones that come to my mind right now. I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of right now.

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