Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Teachers Protest Poor Wages, Packed Classes

    A sea of protesters held signs and gathered at the Seattle Center on May 19 to protest increasing class sizes and inadequate teacher wages.

    Activists wore red to show their support for public education under the rhyming slogan, “wear red for Ed!” Over 6,000 teachers and students from just under 60 districts held signs that read “Students are more than a score” and “Good schools require good funding. Fund public schools.”

    The main complaint Seattle school district teachers have is that their wages have not increased with inflation while their class sizes have continued to grow.

    According to protesters, larger class sizes diminish the amount of quality time a teacher can spend with a student while increasing the overall time a teacher must work on things outside of the classroom, such as grading papers. The “pack em’ deep and teach em’ cheap” sign was one of the many signs held high by teachers to express this concern.

    With Washington averaging 19.7 students per teacher combined with a stagnant salary, third grade teacher Dan Jordan from Olympic View Elementary school
    feels overwhelmed.

    “My rent has gone up an additional $300 a month from when I first moved onto Capitol Hill,” Jordan said. “My salary has not increased. Sometimes I must also spend my own money on supplies for the classroom.”

    Arguing for cost of living increases, Jordan explained that he is better off than other teachers because he has no children and no spouse to provide for. If times are tough for Jordan, it raises questions about the difficulties of teachers supporting families.

    Although state law prohibits public employees such as teachers from having the right to strike or refusal to work under RCW 41.56.120, teachers were determined to fight. The strike, which lasted one day, allowed teachers and students to voice their opinions before the state of Washington had time to intervene. Seattle University law professor Charlotte Garden elaborated in an interview with Kyle Stokes of KPLU the difference between not having the right to do something and that something being illegal.

    “[Not having the right to strike is] a little bit different than being illegal. When we are talking about a short strike, there is often not enough time to get those things underway,” she said.

    To allot time for their strike, Seattle public schools will make up the missed day on June 16. Walkouts and strikes like this pressure school boards and legislation to take action.

    The Washington legislature is mandated by the Supreme Court to increase public school funding by 2019, but the state legislature has disregarded the Supreme Court order. It is the duty of the state to provide for the education of all children, without discrimination of race, color, caste or sex. Due to the state of Washington’s disregard of the order, the Supreme Court held Washington in contempt in the case of McClearly v. State in late September of 2014. The court ordered no consequences, but still expects Washington to uphold the original order.

    In addition to lobbying for higher wages and smaller class sizes, demonstrators also lobbied against standardized testing. Activists argued that standardized tests do not accomplish anything and only serve to keep students on their toes. The argument is that these tests serve no real purpose but to inaccurately measure the effectiveness of a school.

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