Braun calls on state’s top officials to ensure school starts on time

With the threat of teacher strikes looming in local school districts throughout the state, Sen. John Braun called on Washington’s top elected officials to fulfill their moral and legal obligation to ensure students can return to the classroom on time. On Thursday Braun sent a letter to Washington state’s governor, attorney general and superintendent of public schools requesting their assistance in discouraging teacher strikes and taking legal action to prevent them if necessary.

“Forcing children to remain out of the classroom reduces educational opportunities and creates a major burden for families,” said Braun, R-Centralia, who sponsored the 2017-19 state operating budget that made historic investments in Washington’s K-12 public schools. “Classroom time is precious and especially important as students return from a long period off. A strike would also force families to make last-second plans to keep their children safe and supervised, which for some would require taking time off of work. This is incredibly difficult for single parents and households where both parents work.”

Recent weeks have featured many reports of local teachers authorizing strikes and even the Washington Education Association training teachers for the picket line. According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, start dates vary by school district, but the overwhelming majority begin over the next two weeks, while some are already underway.

“A dispute between adults should never harm children,” said Braun. “In addition to being illegal, a strike would be especially concerning as many districts already agreed to a contract for the upcoming school year and are only re-negotiating for additional pay. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen public comments from union officials that they would ignore the legal prohibition against public employee strikes. That is why I am asking our top officials to fulfill their duty to ensure the law is upheld.”

Since the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state was not amply funding public education in 2011, the Legislature has committed to nearly doubling state education funding, going from $13.6 billion in the 2011-13 budget to $26.8 billion in 2019-21. As a result, Braun says Washington state will almost assuredly rank in the top five nationally in state education funding per student.

“Whether our top officials side with local union officials or the school district, they must execute the duty we all have to provide a world-class education system, which includes having children in the classroom learning.”

Under the current budget, the state will provide on average more than $72,000 for teacher salaries during the 2018-19 school year, which does not include additional pay from local levies. This also does not include pension, health care or time off benefits paid by the state.