Lack of funding could prompt island teachers to strike

The Bainbridge Island Education Association has told the Bainbridge Island School Board it will hold a strike vote in August 2017 if lawmakers failed to amply fund education.

Union Representatives Lisa Hale and Larry Holland read from a prepared statement by BIEA at a recent board meeting and told district officials the union’s membership had agreed to take the step, if necessary.

It’s just the latest attempt by school workers to draw attention to inadequate funding for public schools.

“Members have been traveling to Olympia, waving signs on street corners, and calling members of the Legislature to demand full funding of basic education. Last week, our members voted unanimously to meet in August 2017 to take a strike vote if Washington state lawmakers fail to amply fund education,” the statement to the school board said.

“Other Education Associations in our region and across the state are taking similar action,” the statement continued.

“We are here to ask, respectfully, that the Bainbridge Island School Board, school district administration and all concerned members of the Bainbridge Island community, join us in these efforts. We know many of you already have. But continued pressure is needed because the time is now to achieve ample and stable funding for our schools. With the state facing a deadline established by the Supreme Court, now is when real progress has a chance,” the statement concluded.

Following the meeting, Hale, along with Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen and Board President Sheila Jakubik, drafted a letter to State House Representatives Sherry Appleton and Drew Hansen, as well as Washington State Senator Christine Rolfes. The letter states that despite the lack of funding, the district is making do with what little it already has.

“We are doing the best we can, but a big chunk of information is missing: What will we receive from the state?” the letter reads.

“Ensuring all staff are afforded fair compensation is an interest which we believe that is shared, and one which can only be addressed if the Legislature commits to embracing the premise of doing no harm to districts and their staff in this area.

“Providing educational support and services to our most vulnerable students is one of BISD’s highest priorities. We have continued to find the state and federal funding in this area woefully inadequate, and therefore commit significant portions of our Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy to support our Special Education Services,”

The letter also referenced the fact that Carter McCleary — whose parents filed the McCleary suit in 2007 which determined the state’s responsibility to adequately fund basic education — recently graduated from high school.

“It’s too late to fully fund Carter McCleary’s education, but it’s not too late for the more than one million Washington students arriving for the 2017-18 school year.”

While the letter urged state representatives to adequately fund education, there wasn’t any mention of a potential strike, and school officials remained tight-lipped about the possibility of a walkout.

“I appreciate that BIEA leadership is keeping clear lines of communication open with the district and we continue to work together to encourage the state to fully fund education,” Jakubik said.

When asked if she would support a strike by teachers, Jakubik would not comment.