Did your child’s school open on time?
For an estimated 125,000 students in Washington, it did not. Across the state, schools were closed at the start of the year due to teacher strikes, thanks to disagreements between school districts and union leaders over the size of salary increases from the so-called McLeary money. The last strike ended on September 17.
The blame game was in high gear in districts that saw prolonged strikes. Some blamed lack of leadership from the State School Superintendent, local school districts and school boards. Others pointed to hard-bargaining tactics by teacher union leaders, while still others faulted the legislature for revisions made to school funding laws in 2018 that created confusion.
The opaque nature of the bargaining process made it almost impossible for parents and the community to understand much of what was transpiring in these contract talks. In some districts, that meant parents were left wondering why teacher union leaders were saying one thing while their district leaders were saying another.
Moving forward, more transparency in contract negotiations would go a long way towards building community support and possibly help avoid strikes. The Pullman School District recently moved in that direction, opening up bargaining to public observation in 2017.
As the Seattle Times editorial board observed: “Transparency benefits those involved in negotiations as well as the public. Disclosing terms ensures that all sides know what’s on the table and prevents either side from sharing skewed information.”