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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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East Valley teachers to join walkout

Teachers in the East Valley School District voted Thursday to join Spokane Public Schools teachers in a one-day strike on Wednesday, but teachers in the Central Valley and Cheney school districts will not join them.

Teacher unions in 64 Washington school districts have voted to walk out in protest of the state funding for schools, according to the Washington Education Association.

East Valley Education Association President Leslee McLachlan said 96 percent of teachers cast a vote and 76 percent of them voted to walk out. Their bylaws mandate that at least 75 percent approval is required for a walkout.

“This is an action against the state Legislature,” McLachlan said. “They have not listened to the voters.”

East Valley administrators prepared ahead of time and started calling parents and emailing staff members as soon as the vote results were announced Thursday evening, said Interim Superintendent Tom Gresch. The district will make up the missed school day on June 15.

“We need to let parents know as soon as possible,” Gresch said. “We have only two school days before it happens.”

Gresch said he had suggested that teachers do something before or after school to show their support of full funding.

“I am supportive of education and funding it appropriately, but not this way,” he said.

McLachlan said teachers believe the walkout is necessary after years of battling with the Legislature for funding mandated by the state Supreme Court.

“I wish people knew that teachers have the best interests of their students at heart,” she said. “They believe that if they don’t stand up for their students, no one else will.”

East Valley School Board chairman Justin Voelker said he was disappointed by the vote, which he said violates the teachers’ contract.

“The school board cannot condone this action or support it,” he said. “It’s an act against parents and kids because they are the ones who are going to be inconvenienced by this.”

Voelker said he also is worried that the walkout could halt the positive momentum generated by the recent approval of a technology levy by voters. The district has made numerous attempts to pass a construction bond in the past decade, all of which failed.

“My concern is that this is going to be a setback in our relations with the community,” he said.

Central Valley School District teachers met Thursday evening but did not reach the required quorum of 460 members to take a vote on a walkout. But it was clear from the discussion that teachers were frustrated with the Legislature, said Central Valley Education Association President Vicki Arnold.

“Many of our members also believe that our students, parents and community should not have their lives disrupted because of our politicians’ failures,” she said.

Instead, Central Valley teachers are asking the community to write the Legislature in support of teachers, Arnold said. A different type of protest may be planned later but there will not be any more meetings on whether to walk out, she said.

Cheney School District teachers rejected a walkout in a vote Thursday evening. “I think they’ll be looking at other ways teachers can express their frustration with the Legislature,” said Associate Superintendent Sean Dotson. “I certainly understand why teachers are making that decision in some districts, but I do support our teachers’ decision to stay in. This is a complex issue.”

Fifty-six percent of the 255 teachers casting ballots voted against the walkout, said Cheney Education Association President Karen Runyon. The association has 305 members.

Runyon said there was no overwhelming message on why people voted no.

“I think people are just trying to figure out how else we can get our Legislature to listen,” she said.

Both Arnold and Runyon said they expect some of their teachers to ask for a personal day off on Wednesday to join other teachers who are walking out.

Mead School District teachers are expected to vote today on whether to walk out. West Valley School District teachers plan to meet to discuss the issue on Tuesday.

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