First day of school postponed for Puyallup students as bargaining over teacher salaries continues

There will be no school in the Puyallup School District on Wednesday as district teachers have called a work stoppage, postponing what was scheduled to be the first day of school.

The decision comes after days of intense bargaining between the district and the Puyallup Education Association over teacher salaries.

The district sent out an alert Tuesday afternoon announcing there will be no school and teachers have committed themselves to walking a picket line.

On Tuesday night, the Puyallup School Board was met by hundreds of angry teachers at a board meeting at Aylen Middle School. A board member broke down in tears as he addressed the teachers who had railed against the board for nearly an hour.

“The fact that you don't believe that we don't care about you hurts!” said Dan Looker, a school board member.

“School board members “can blame themselves,” Puyallup Education Association president Karen McNamara said Tuesday. “We’ve been trying for a long time to work with them. This didn’t have to happen.”

McNamara says the McLeary decision to fund schools has pumped $15 million into Puyallup schools. A proposed 6 percent increase in pay is not enough when similar districts are offering double-digit raises.

“All we're asking is to be able to compete fairly with our colleagues around the state,” said McNamara.

Teachers across Washington have been bargaining for increased compensation after a court order found state lawmakers weren't funding a basic education.

Puyallup Superintendent Tim Yeomans said giving teachers raises would not be sustainable.

“What I do not want to do is look at our 200 youngest teachers in the face and say I gave away your job,” said Yeomans

Puyallup School District Communications Director Brian Fox said the district is taking the stoppage on a day-by-day basis as bargaining continues.

“We’re trusting that both sides have the same goal and that is to come up with a tentative agreement,” Fox said.

The strike is the first in 72 years for the district.

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