Teachers could vote to strike this fall if state lawmakers fail to comply with McCleary decision

EVERETT, Wash. —  As the Legislature gets close to the end of the second special session, teachers in some districts are already talking about possible strikes.

Lawmakers had until this legislative session to come up with a plan to comply with the state Supreme Court’s decision in McCleary v. Washington that found the state was failing to adequately fund public education. The court is fining the state Legislature $100,000 for every day that public education is not fully funded.

As of Friday, Democrats and Republicans are still at a standstill on the budget, meaning the education issue is in limbo.

The Everett School District hasn't seen a strike in decades but last week teachers voted to hold a full meeting next month when they could potentially vote to strike.

Jared Kink, president of the Everett Education Association, said Friday that if lawmakers do not come up with a budget by the end of this month, teachers will consider their options.

“Teachers are angry, they are frustrated,” Kink said.

Even if lawmakers do pass a budget, teachers could still decide to strike if bargaining rights and local control of how money is spent is taken away from the districts.

“We've done everything we can to influence the Legislature,” Kink said, including occupying and rallying in Olympia to urge lawmakers to comply with the McCleary decision.

“You have a whole generation of kids that has gone through the education system who have lost out on a fully funded school,” Kink said.

With the budget in limbo, Kink says school districts are having a hard time making decisions.

“Some districts sit there and say we would really like to hire people and we don`t know what to do,” Kink said.

The uncertainty is affecting parents -- but, most of all, the children.

“I feel like the classrooms are overcrowded,” parent Rene Walburn said.

Walburn has five children in the Everett School District and she supports a teacher strike.

“They go above and beyond and it`s not just about their salary, they actually do care about these kids,” Walburn said.

But other parents are hoping teachers wont strike even if lawmakers don`t agree on a budget.

“For those (parents) who do work, it`s probably going to be a problem because child care is expensive,” parent Chelsea Olson said.

Kink said he understands the concern.

“I am a parent myself, I know what that does for the community. Strikes are the very last resort, we take it very seriously,” Kink said.

Everett is not the only one already talking about the potential of a strike. Teachers in Mukilteo also voted last week to have a special meeting next month to address the issue of a strike if state lawmakers do not have a solution.

The Everett Education Association meeting is scheduled for August 15.