Camas teachers vote to authorize potential strike

Educators say they're prepared to begin striking on Monday, the first day of school, if district and union cannot reach agreement

A majority of Camas teachers have voted to authorize a potential strike if the teachers’ union and Camas School District cannot reach agreement on a new contract by Monday, Aug. 28, the scheduled start of the 2023-24 school year in Camas. 

“Unfortunately, the district is still refusing to agree to the basic things our students and members need,” Camas teacher Michael Sanchez, vice president of the Camas Education Association, the union serving 450 Camas educators, and a member of the CEA’s contract bargaining team, said in a recorded statement to the community released Thursday, Aug. 24. “CSD’s actions forced the CEA membership to authorize a strike on Aug. 22. Today, we informed the district of our intention to strike starting Aug. 28, the first day of school.” 

Sanchez said he speaks for every member of the CEA when he says educators would rather be back in the classroom, serving students. 

“They deserve a high-quality education,” Sanchez said of Camas students. “The focus of the proposals from the CEA and the district are radically different.” 

CEA’s proposal calls for “smaller class size, increased staffing and resources for vulnerable students, equitable funding to library, music and (physical education) programs, and more,” Sanchez said. 

“Conversely, the district has proposed taking away certain due process rights from our members, using more teacher planning time for meetings and making it easier for the district to arbitrarily discipline staff,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez said the teachers’ union’s proposal is “student-focused” while characterizing the district’s proposal as “management-focused.” 

“It was never CEA’s intention for this to be a bargain about money,” Sanchez added. “The association had planned on the district keeping its previous commitments in terms of the inflation measure we bargained for in our previous contract. Unfortunately, the district’s desire to make this about money has hindered our bargaining efforts.”
Sanchez said teachers do not want to go on strike, but that the district has forced the union to take action. 

“The district has chosen this path and the district can fix it,” Sanchez said. “They can agree to meeting our students’ needs and we can avoid all of this. If they don’t agree, we are forced to strike.”
Sanchez said union members are very appreciative “of the words of encouragement” they’ve received from families, businesses, other unions and the community and said many people have asked what they can do to help Camas educators. 

“You can write to the superintendent and the school board,” Sanchez said. “Tell them who you are. Tell them what you value about our schools, and tell them it’s time to start coming up with real solutions because students can’t wait.”
Sanchez said the union will be posting regular updates on its website at 

Bargaining continues; union says two sides ‘still pretty far apart on most substantive issues’

The union and the school district are slated to return to the bargaining table Thursday, Aug. 24. 

CSD Communications Director Doreen McKercher told The Post-Record Friday, Aug. 18, that district leaders were prepared for a possible teachers’ strike. 

“We are still negotiating … and there could be a work stoppage,” McKercher said.  

Sanchez said earlier in the week that the teachers’ union and the school district were “still pretty far apart on most substantive issues” including class size, planning time for educators and cost-of-living adjustments. 

“These are not uncommon things to show up in contract negotiations,” Sanchez added, saying the union feels the district is able to afford the things educators are asking for in their new, three-year contract. 

“We feel our proposal is pretty reasonable,” Sanchez said. “We’ve shown ourselves at the bargaining table to be solutions-oriented and have been flexible in trying to understand what the district’s concerns are and really trying to find common ground.” 

The teachers’ union would like to see class sizes reduced to help ease increasingly tough workloads placed on Camas teachers, Sanchez said, noting that “since COVID, kids are coming to us with increasing needs, and our educators are finding it difficult to meet the needs of all of our students.” 

“We’re asking the district for help in facilitating that,” Sanchez said. 

Bargaining between the school district and its teachers’ union began May18, and continued through this week, with both groups meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 15-16, and exchanging new proposals Wednesday, Aug. 17. 

Following a bargaining session held Monday, Aug. 21, the district stated on its website that “both the union and the district made significant progress in the areas of grievance procedures, start and end times for staff, and music and library funding.”

In a post published on the CSD website, McKercher noted that school district negotiators had proposed a three-year contract with the CEA union that included a 4.95% raise for the 2023-24 school year. If accepted, this would put Camas educators near the top of the pack for teacher salaries in Clark County – with entry-level teachers in the Camas School District earning a starting salary of $62,679; teachers with seven years’ experience and a master’s degree earning $84,263 a year; and teachers at the top of the salary schedule earning an annual salary of $117,242.

The district’s proposal also includes raising substitute teachers’ daily pay from $155 to $170 for a full day’s work and from $85 to $100 for a half day. 

Union leaders said they initially bargained with the district to match the Seattle consumer price index (CPI), which would have given Camas educators a more than 8% bump during the first year of their new contract.
If the district were to use the Seattle CPI, the union would likely see around an 8.9% increase for the first year of the contract, with that cost-of-living adjustment falling the following two years. 

“We bargained for Seattle CPI, and the district agreed to that,” Sanchez said. “(They) can’t just change the inflator that (they) want to use because it’s higher one year and not another. Our members were counting on that Seattle CPI cost-of-living increase.”  

The district’s proposal also includes language that would include a new definition of “family” under its bereavement leave that would add “grandparents, parents, siblings, spouse, aunts, uncle, nieces and nephews, as well as guardians, those under guardianship, foster family members, step-family members and in-laws.

Regarding class sizes, the district said in its latest proposal that it has rejected the union’s proposal and that it “cannot agree or disagree” with a subsection that calls for the district to “create a new section provided space is available” for elementary classes that have reached maximum number of students for five consecutive days in September and October until “the parties have a more robust discussion.” 

Sanchez said the union would also like the district to speak to “outlier” class sizes at the secondary level. 

“If I’m a math teacher with a class of 28, and a class of 29 and a class of 27 – and then have one with 35 (students),” Sanchez said, “we would like to discourage that. That’s a lot of kids. And it’s problematic for learning, and logistically for classroom management.” 

On Friday afternoon, the district posted its most current offer as well as the union’s Aug. 17 proposal online at

In return, the union posted a fact sheet detailing its proposals, and said “the district will be sharing our proposals with little context, and they will say it’s about more money.” Instead of money, the union said, it “remains focused on (Camas) students and how we can support educators.” 

Union leaders said in the fact sheet that they are proposing lower class sizes, consistent language around work hours, manageable student caseloads, protections for classroom planning time, equitable funds for student resources and wages to recruit and retain great teachers. 

“Our financial expert confirmed that the district can honor the bargained CPI while remaining financially healthy,” the union stated on its fact sheet. “If our salaries don’t grow at the rate of current inflation, it will impact all our future salaries as well as our retirement funds. Educators value public education and we would never put the district in financial jeopardy.” 

Sanchez said Wednesday that union members “want nothing more than to be welcoming our students back on Monday morning.”
“It’s up to CSD now to show it values our students’ futures and come to an agreement that reflects that,” Sanchez said. 

To learn more about the bargaining negotiations between the Camas School District and its teachers’ union, visit or