Opinion

EDITORIAL | SKEA proposed strike similar to 2009 Kent strike

Perhaps, South Kitsap Education Association members need a lesson in history after they voted Monday night to strike if they can’t reach a contract agreement with the South Kitsap School District before school starts.

In 2009, 1,700 Kent Education Association (KEA) members went on strike over crowded classrooms — similar to the same issue the SKEA is fuming over.

The strike lasted 17 days and delayed the opening of school on two occasions for the state’s fourth-largest school district.

The turning point in the strike came when the Kent School District (KSD) officials field an injunction in King County Superior Court, asking that the strike be ruled illegal and the teachers be ordered back to class.

According to state law, teachers are prohibited from striking because they are public employees.

A 2006 state attorney general's opinion said state and local public employees, including teachers, have no legally protected right to strike. That opinion also noted state law lacks specific penalties for striking public employees.

Judge Andrea Darvas granted the KSD’s injunction and ordered teachers back to the classroom.

But about 1,300 KEA members or 74 percent of the group voted to disobey the order.

The district provided the court a list of teachers who had not returned to work. The judge told the teachers they would be fined $200 a day if they did not report back to work and the KEA would be fined $1,500 a day.

The judge criticized teachers for their “disrespect for the court” and told them they were setting a poor example for students, who count on them to be role models.

Since the early 1970s, there has been about 90 teacher strikes in the state. The longest strike was in 2003 when Marysville teachers were on strike for 49 days injunction was granted. The teachers obeyed the judges and returned to class.

SKEA says it’s all about the kids. But given the legal precedent — and the disruption a strike could cause from students and their families — is it really?

 

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