In Tumwater, the first day of school is about four weeks away, but Black Hills High School teacher Henry Valz said he won't go back until he has a fair contract.
The teachers' union, Tumwater Education Association, has been in talks with the school district since May. The collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of August.
Thursday night, teachers along with some parents and students gathered near Trosper Road and Capitol Boulevard in Tumwater to wave signs. Teachers said they are fighting for a fair contract.
"The district is really stuck on this 3.1 percent really low number while other districts, similar districts, have been settling at 14, 15, 21, 25 percent raises," said Valz.
"When all you hear is a soundbite that this district is getting a double-digit raise, why can't Tumwater? Part of the reason is we were hit so hard financially," said Superintendent John Bash.
Bash said lawmakers made funding changes after a Supreme Court decision that required them to invest billions into schools.
"There's big-time winners and losers in this new funding model our lawmakers designed. Tumwater is in the losing bracket unfortunately," said Bash.
He said one example is his district is losing some of its levy funding.
"They are going to take nearly half of that away from us in two years time," said Bash.
"We've heard that story. They are the district that cries wolf, or in this case the district that cries shortfall, and we are tired of it," said Valz. "If the district cares about the students and cares about its teachers then a strike won't happen because they will settle at a fair number."
"I'm optimistic that we can reach an agreement with our teachers that is not only financially responsible, but reflects the financial realities we are facing," said Bash.
Teachers also want the district to reduce class sizes and make improvements to special education. The union and school district will meet next week.