Tacoma could replace striking teachers, says judge

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 19, 2011 at 6:04 AM

Updated Monday, Sep 19 at 5:23 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- As Tacoma teachers hit the picket line for a second week, a judge said the strike could cost them their jobs. Classes were canceled for Tuesday.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chuschcoff said he's considering giving the Tacoma school district the option to hire replacement teachers while regular teachers remain on the picket line.

"I'm seriously willing to consider that," said Chushcoff. "I don't like doing that, but I will do that if it is necessary."

The attorney for the teachers union said he would argue the judge does not have the authority to do that. A spokesperson for the union doubted the district could find enough replacement teachers to resume class.

Chushcoff met with lawyers for both the Tacoma teachers union and Tacoma Public School District Monday morning to determine the penalties teachers faced for defying his court order to return to work last week.

Chushcoff ordered contempt of court notices to be sent to the 2,000 teachers of the Tacoma Education Association this week. A hearing Sept. 27 will determine when teachers will have to appear in court and what penalties they may face.

Tacoma teachers and Tacoma Public School District officials were set to resume negotiations Monday afternoon as the teachers strike entered its fifth day in the state's third-largest school district.

Contract talks between the two sides stalled again late Sunday night, although teachers said they have "guarded optimism" that a deal can soon be reached.

Andy Coon, Tacoma Education Association president, said talks were running "way more smooth" now that a new mediator was moving things along.

School district administrators said they are willing to budge a little, offering a new deal on teacher pay and offering to adjust the teacher reassignment policy that has caused the most friction.

"We are willing to give a little too," said Coon. "But we are out here for a reason. We want a deal."

Teachers were ordered by a judge to return to the classroom last week. However, in a union vote 93 percent of teachers agreed to defy the judges order and continue to picket.


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

 

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