Drive about 30 miles southeast of my town, and you’ll be in the third largest school district in the state – over 2,000 teachers and just under 30,000 students. For the past week, the teachers have been on strike. While a teacher strike isn’t uncommon, this one is reminiscent of George W Bush when he said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … Well, you’re not going to fool me again!”
Last year, the TPS school district angered teachers by its horrible handling of a mass teacher transfer. The district admitted its fault, but the action only further damaged the relationship between teachers and district. Fast forward to this summer, and the school district is trying to get the teachers to agree to a vague revision of teacher intradistrict transfer. This is where the Bush quote comes into play.
Knowing there is now a heightened level of distrust between the teachers and the district, the teachers decide to give the district one more chance and start school without having a signed contract, teacher transfer stipulations being the biggest element of contention. It should have come as no surprise, but a week and a half into the school year – after teacher expectations had been set with students, books distributed, homework assigned – there was still no signed contract. The 77% who wanted to strike before school started became 87%, and all schools in TPS closed. It has now been a week. On Thursday, the teachers voted to continue striking, defying a court order issued on Wednesday, ordering them to return to work. On Friday, the teachers were somehow forgiven their defiance, and contract discussions will continue through the end of the month. As of today, school will continue to be closed through Tuesday.
As a student advocate, I don’t support either the teachers’ union or the school district. I blame them both equally and am disgusted by their actions. I am not against strikes in general; what I am against is educators walking out on their students after welcoming them back to school and teaching them for a week and a half. I am also against the bureaucratic bickering that prevents learning. In my opinion, this strike reflects stubbornness, thoughtlessness, and selfishness. I do not discount the issues preventing a signed contract; however, the fact that there was no signed contract by day one of the school year should have been the breaking point.
While I am not a teacher, nor am involved in my stepdaughter’s schooling, I will stay engaged in the Tacoma strike discussions and news updates. For the sake of the students, I hope school is back in session soon!