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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

September 3, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Kent strike: Are teachers right to picket?

Low teacher pay, oppressive administration at issue in strike

Editor, The Times:

As a 22-year occupational therapist (OT) and member of the Kent Education Association, I am personally appalled at how my very own school district administration is treating our dedicated staff in this bargaining process. Why are we still on strike?

First, we have a constitutional right to strike against an oppressive administration that has been disrespectful, dishonest and poorly responsive at the bargaining table.

Second, high class sizes and caseloads lead to ineffective teaching and too many mandated meetings interfere with our valuable intervention time with students.

Personally, I have seen my therapy caseloads increase by about 25 percent in the last five years.

Third, even with a $5,000 national certification stipend for specialists like OTs offered by the district, our base salary is so low that OTs in Seattle still make more money. Thus, we still have unfilled OT positions and students who will not receive legally mandated services.

Finally, I find it insulting that Kent has one of the largest rainy-day reserve funds and pays its administrators the most in the Puget Sound area, yet holds its teachers at the bottom of the pay ranks.

In Kent, we stand united as teaching staff and sincerely hope we can begin this school year by reaching a win-win agreement with the district, knowing that ultimately we are all after the same thing: a quality education for our children.

— Rose Racicot, Kent

Teachers, administrators holding students hostage

Is it just possible that both management and labor are less committed to “students first” than they have always alleged?

The autumn threat of a teachers’ strike is almost as regular as the annual spring flood in Western Washington. If students indeed come first, both management and labor would have resolved their differences long before students are due back at school.

Instead they have made students and families hostage of their dispute, which borders on the myopic.

— H.T. Wong, Seattle

Stuffed classrooms threaten a healthy base for students

After going through seven years of schooling in the Kent School District, I saw why the teachers are striking.

It’s ridiculous to be in a classroom with 35 students or more. My art class last year did not even have enough desks for all of the students in the class. I was in a math class with more than 30 students, and people still wonder why students are failing state tests.

It makes sense to have smaller class sizes. Teachers will have the time to get to every student. Education is the foundation of everything, and it’s about time teachers and students started to fight for it.

— Jackie Argueta, Kent

Righteousness found in the Rule of Law

If anyone in Seattle cares, part of what is wrong with our country and our educational system is in Danny Westneat’s column [“Teachers strikes are different,” NWWednesday, Sept. 2].

“Yesterday the head of Kent schools said the strike there is illegal. Probably so — public employees generally don’t have a right to walk off the job,” Westneat wrote.

Whether it’s legal or not, it is a technicality. What matters is whether the strike is righteous. This country was founded on the Rule of Law, that a law is not a technicality but something to which we must adhere.

That a columnist for a major city’s newspaper can write, “Hey, this law isn’t ‘righteous’ so it doesn’t have to be obeyed;” to have a president indicate that “empathy” in a Supreme Court justice is as important as following the law, is to diminish the Rule of Law.

To encourage breaking a law when it is opposite to your belief is to encourage anarchy. In part, the reason our Founding Fathers started a revolution was that the laws of the king were arbitrary and capricious, not to mention discriminatory and favoring certain classes over others.

Now, Westneat and President Obama are essentially saying, “Yeah, if you don’t like a law, break it.”

Citizens of Seattle, think about this: If we have no Rule of Law, if we can arbitrarily break laws we don’t like, especially if our teachers break laws they think are wrong, what does that teach their students, our kids, the future of America?

“Hey kids, the law is only a bothersome technicality so do whatever you want, what you think is righteous.” I hope the union bosses get thrown in jail if for no other reason than to show our kids that this country is based on the Rule of Law.

— Theodore M. Wight, Seattle

Students, not teachers, lifeblood of schools

I find the quote from Terri Brown, a sixth-grade teacher at Soos Creek Elementary, revealing in the article, “Kent district tries to force its teachers back to work” [page one, Sept. 2].

Brown says, “I can’t believe instead of working with us, they [Kent School District administrators] take us to court. We’re the teachers. We’re the lifeblood of the schools.”

But last time I checked, students are the lifeblood of a school. Perhaps Brown and her co-workers should all be fired and made to reapply for their jobs.

— Tom Gates, Yakima

Comments | More in budget cuts, Education, Labor, Teachers

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