Camas teachers’ union will join state walkout May 13

Protest is against Legislature for failure to adequately fund education

The Camas Education Association has voted to participate in a planned one day walkout on Wednesday, May 13, in protest against the state Legislature for failing to fully fund K-12 education and keep class sizes smaller, among other issues.

Earlier this week, the Washougal Association of Educators also voted to participate in the walkout.

As a result, neither the Washougal or Camas school districts will hold regular classes at any school, which will cause the districts to extend the school year by one day to meet the state requirement of 180 school days.

The last day of school for students will now be Tuesday, June 16 instead of June 15. June 15 will now be a regular school day.

Leaders from both unions have emphasized that the work stoppage is not directed at the school districts.

“The protest is against the Legislature, not the Washougal School District,” said Frank Zahn, WAE board president. “The WAE made its decision at the encouragement of the state teacher union, Washington Education Association, to protest a lack of state legislative progress in adequately funding schools.”

Chris Panell, CEA president, echoed that sentiment in an email sent earlier this week.

“This vote is not an action against the school district, but in protest of the state Legislature’s attempt to take away control over local levy dollars and to limit bargaining at the local level,” he said. “It is also so we can inform our community about the continual failure of the state legislature to fully fund education, which is its paramount duty, as the Washington State Supreme Court noted in its McCleary Decision.

The CEA sent out a press release, directed at the community, after its Wednesday vote to approve the walkout.

“You have supported us. That support is being threatened by the Legislature. You have consistently voted to support your schools and your investment has made our schools thrive because you have made up the gap that the Legislature has left through their unwillingness to fund schools properly.”

It continued, “For this reason, we take this day of action as educators to ensure you are informed and your questions are answered. We did not make this decision lightly; we weighed many concerns about postponing school to allow for a day of action.”

Dawn Tarzian, Washougal superintendent, noted that the district was not consulted by the WAE, and does not endorse or support the walkout.

“While the district firmly believes the Legislature should fully fund schools, interrupting classroom learning is not an effective way to convey this message,” she said. “The district recognizes that this work stoppage will create an interruption to our students’ education and will have an impact on every family that must find childcare or supervision for their children.”

In an email to Camas School District families, administrators apologized for the challenge posed by the work stoppage.

“The School Board and administration agree that lawmakers have failed to fully fund K-12 education for too many years,” it stated. “However, we don’t believe pulling all teachers out of classrooms for a day is the way to convey this message to our legislators. We apologize for the challenge this presents to our students, families, community, and staff.”

Rep. Liz Pike (R-Camas) noted that while she supports the teachers, she does not support the walkout or reasoning behind it.

“We have some amazing teachers throughout the district who work hard and should be paid a living wage for what they do,” she said. “That said, I am very disappointed that teachers in some of our local school districts have chosen to walk out of their classrooms on a one-day strike. I believe this action is premature, because proposals are currently being negotiated, and the budget is not settled.”

Pike added that all citizens, including teachers, have the right to be heard and that legislators can be accessed through a toll-free hotline, letter or e-mail account.

“I’m very concerned that a strike sends the wrong message to our children that it’s okay to walk out on your job,” she said. “Most employees in the private sector cannot do that without risking consequences in their own jobs. Our teachers need to honor their contracts and stay in their classrooms to teach and use more productive methods to communicate their wishes and concerns to their legislators.”

In Washougal, nationally scheduled Advanced Placement tests will be administered as scheduled, along with after school events and athletics, provided the coach is not a part of the walkout.

The Southwest Washington Childcare Consortium Centers will be closed. Washougal students can be taken to Riverview Elementary, 12601 S.E. Riverridge Drive, Vancouver, from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. For more information, call 750-7501.

Evening meetings and events taking place at school district facilities will continue as planned.

In Camas, Advanced Placement tests, high school athletic games scheduled with other schools, evening parent meetings and facility use scheduled by outside organizations will continue as scheduled.

There will be no Extended Day before or after school child care. However, Camas Community Education is offering a day camp from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 833-5547.

For a list of specific cancellations, check the individual school website.