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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane teachers vote to strike on May 27; officials cancel school

UPDATED: Wed., May 20, 2015

Spokane Public Schools’ teachers and staff voted Wednesday to do a one-day walkout on May 27 in protest of the Legislature not fully funding basic education. More than 65 percent of nearly 2,500 Spokane Education Association members cast yes votes. All schools and work sites turned in ballots. “We are sending a message to our legislators,” said Jenny Rose, union president. “Our students deserve it and every single educator in Spokane Public Schools that are doing the hard work every day, deserve our legislators to fully fund education. I am so proud of my members who stood up and said ‘It’s time.’” Spokane’s union follows 60 school district workforces across Washington that have staged one-day strikes. So far, no other Spokane-area school districts have announced decisions about joining in the walk-out. Central Valley School District is expected to vote tonight. “We share the frustration that the legislature is not meeting its obligation to fully fund basic K-12 public education,” said Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, this walkout impacts our families and community in Spokane.” All classes and other school-related activities will be cancelled on May 27, and students will have to attend school on June 18, one day longer than originally scheduled. In addition, the district is cancelling its early start schedules on Thursday starting May 28 until the remainder of the year. Parent Amanda Hargreaves has three children in the district. “I feel like it’s not going to do any good,” she said. “It’s a waste of time. If you are going to have smaller class sizes, you need more school space. You can’t magic money out of nowhere.” Hargreaves said she’s lucky because she’s a stay-at-home mom so it won’t be a big inconvenience, but “what are you suppose to do if you work.” Sen. Mike Baumgartner, who on Tuesday held a hearing on legislation to dock the pay of teachers who go on strike, called the vote results disappointing. Although budget negotiators have yet to reach any agreement on spending or taxes, budgets from the House and Senate both have large increases in state funding for public schools and some cost-of-living raises for teachers, he said. “We need teachers in schools, educating students,” Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said. The bill that was the subject of the hearing could be brought to the Senate floor for a vote in a second special session, if there’s enough support for it, he said. There’s probably not time to advance it in what remains of the current special session, which by law must end next Wednesday. Sen. Andy Billig, who is among legislators negotiating parts of the budget related to education, agreed that regardless of the one-day teacher strikes around the state, the Legislature is moving toward significant increases in education spending. But the strikes are a tool the teachers can employ to make their point, he said. “I appreciate the teachers standing up to make the case for full funding of education,” Billig, D-Spokane, said. “Now it’s up to us to deliver.” Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.
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