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Schools shut down in Tacoma as teachers strike

September 13, 2011 | 12:21 pm

Teachers in Tacoma, Wash., went on strike Tuesday, shutting down schools for about 28,000 students, not all of whom were happy about the instant replay of summer vacation.

"You're adults. Grow up," Moe Garrison, a sophomore at Mount Tahoma High School, said in an interview with the Tacoma News-Tribune. The Tacoma Education Assn. membership voted 87% in favor of a strike Monday night after failing to get any new traction in disputes over class sizes, teacher transfer policies and a pay cut that district officials say is necessary as a result of lower state funding.

"The Tacoma School District administration has amassed a surplus totaling more than $40 million, yet insists on forcing teachers to take a pay cut," the association said on its website.

Teachers say a proposed new transfer policy, which would ditch the current contract language that bases teacher assignments on seniority, could provide cover for transfers based improperly on age, race or gender.

District officials say they are ready to keep class sizes as they are but that teachers want to make them smaller. They said in a statement that the goal is to make teacher assignments based on "the best fit for teachers and schools."

The district's 1,623 teachers, who earn an average salary of $63,793, have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.

Attorneys for the district were going to court Tuesday to try to get the strike declared illegal under state law, which forbids public employee strikes. There is a separate collective bargaining statute for teachers, under which some legal analysts argue walkouts are permitted.

While Garrison called the strike "stupid," senior Stephany Ngoun, a senior at Lincoln High School, was helping babysit teachers' children during a recent union meeting. She told the News-Tribune she appreciated their holding out for smaller class sizes. "I agree with the teachers," she said.


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Photo: Teachers walks a picket line at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. Credit: Joe Barrentine /Tacoma News-Tribune