Judge could order striking Tacoma teachers back to work

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on September 14, 2011 at 6:20 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 14 at 10:07 AM

TACOMA, Wash. -- Leaders of the Washington state's third-largest school district are asking a judge to order hundreds of striking teachers back to work as thousands of students spend a second day out of class.
  
A Superior Court hearing began Wednesday morning on the Tacoma School District's request for an injunction to order nearly 1,900 teachers back to work.

In the packed courtroom, the attorney for Tacoma Public Schools argued that public employee strikes are illegal, citing the state's attorney general and past rulings. He listed several "harms" caused by the teachers' strike, such as special ed students not receiving needed services and parents needing child care.

The teachers' union attorney, who has a child in Tacoma Public Schools, argued that the school year is flexible, citing changes in class dates for presidential visits and snow days.

Both attorneys agreed on one thing: their opponent is negotiating in "bad faith."
  
Classes have been canceled for Tacoma's 28,000 students since the strike began Tuesday. Strike issues include teacher pay, class size and the way the district's teachers are transferred and reassigned. Tacoma teachers had been working without a contract since school started Sept. 1.

About 350 teachers were on the picket lines outside of Jason Lee Middle School Wednesday morning.

“As a teacher though I want my students to challenge the status quo, I want them be advocates for themselves and strong members of the community," said Andy Coon, president of the Tacoma teachers union. "There is a time when we want them to stand up to a bully, and that's what we're doing."

“I think the district is totally not negotiating in good faith," said Elizabeth Cruz, teacher. "They put us in this position.”

"Before I left, I said, 'Remember your teachers really care about you. That's why we're doing this," said Danielle Pansevicius, teacher.

The teachers' union president, Andy Coon, said he reached out to the school district to request a meeting at 1 p.m. to resume negotiations, but there has been no response from the district.

District spokesman said there are no negotiations scheduled.

KING 5's Drew Mikkelsen and Jake Whittenberg contributed to this report.


 

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