Nearly 6,000 teachers on strike as contract battles continue

Four major school districts in Western Washington have canceled class for the first day of school Wednesday – Puyallup, Tukwila, Tumwater and Centralia.

Five other school districts in Washington State are also on strike: Battle Ground, Evergreen, Longview, Standwood-Camano and Washougal.

Negotiations for teacher pay raises continue to go back-and-forth between the districts and teachers’ unions, and educators are leaving classrooms empty.

The Washington Education Association says nearly 6,000 teachers are on strike.

In a Facebook post, the latest update from the Tukwila School District said there was no deal yet and that teachers were set to hit the picket lines at 7 a.m.

Robocalls from the district went out to families Tuesday.

Parents KIRO 7 spoke with say they stand with the teachers who say they deserve a better compensation package to both attract new educators and retain current ones.

"They should, yes. They work hard. We trust them with our kids. I think they do a good job and they need more money. I just can’t help but feel for them. They feel like they deserve more and I am going to support them,” said parent Kim Douvia.

Meanwhile in Puyallup, the school board was met by hundreds of angry teachers from the district and their supporters as they demanded a better contract with higher wages.  The strike is the first in 72 years for the district.

The district had already sent out a notice canceling the first day of school after the teachers decided to strike. They were joined Tuesday by teachers in Tacoma who also voted overwhelmingly to strike. The district sent out the alert Tuesday afternoon that there would no school and teachers had committed themselves to walking a picket line.

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. She said a proposed 6 percent increase in pay is not enough when similar districts are offering double-digit raises.

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.

Teachers in Tacoma plan to hit the picket lines Thursday unless a deal is reached by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

KIRO 7 checked with the education association and found 93-percent voted to approve a strike Tuesday night.