By Steve Guntli
The Blaine school district will be closed Friday, April 24 so teachers can participate in a regional teacher’s walkout demonstration.
Teachers in the Blaine Education Association (BEA) voted April 17 to participate in the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) walkout. The stated purpose of the demonstration is to allow teachers to attend various rallies protesting poor education funding from the state. J.J. Jensen, a fourth grade teacher at Blaine Elementary and president of the BEA, said the action is not directed at the Blaine school district, but at the state legislature.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship with the district here, and they understand our concerns,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to stand with our colleagues and let our voices be heard.”
More than 2,600 teachers from eight school districts, including Bellingham and Ferndale, have committed to the walkout. Whatcom County teachers will participate in a march and rally through Bellingham on April 24.
WEA, the state teacher’s union, called for the walkout in response to the state’s inadequate implementation of state measure 1351, which passed last November. The measure calls for smaller class sizes and increased staffing for grades K-12, but so far the state has only made class size reductions for K-3. The union is also pushing for increased wages and better health care for educators.
Under the BEA’s collective bargaining agreement, the union agreed to a no-strike clause that would result in teachers being docked a day’s pay for each day absent if they agree to participate in a strike. Spanjer said the district wouldn’t deduct the teachers’ pay, since the time lost would be made up.
Blaine school district superintendent Ron Spanjer said the lost day of school will be made up on Monday, May 4. The day was originally designated as a teacher workday. The workday will be moved to June 10, the day after the schools dismiss for the summer.
“We really don’t want to inconvenience parents or people in the community,” Jensen said. “But we made this decision with the children in mind.”