Union money spent on rally

The long long line of yellow school buses and masses of teachers in Olympia Tuesday prompted some people to wonder if the Day of Action was funded by public money.

No, said Rich Wood, Washington Education Association communications director. Or at least, not exactly.

All the buses were chartered and paid for by the WEA, through dues collected from members. The yellow buses are not actually “school buses,” but privately-owned buses leased by schools. In this case they were Laidlaw buses, which were formerly used by the Seattle School District.

Educators in more than 100 school districts state-wide chose to take the day off to attend the large rally in Olympia and smaller ones in Spokane and the Tri-cities. Some received pay for the day, some did not.

Oak Harbor teachers had the support of the school board, some of whom joined them on the trip, even though the Washington State School Director’s Association officially did not support the school closures.

The association was concerned that the day of protest might anger parents and the public, and that the school closure would be disruptive to students.

Oak Harbor School Board member Kathy Jones said while she understands the association’s reasons, she was disappointed.

“I think it’s important for education supporters to send a unified voice,” she said. “We don’t like to close the schools, but we felt it was necessary in this case.” The opportunity for so many school supporters to come together in one voice doesn’t happen very often, she added.

The school board voted in December to endorse the school closure requested by the Oak Harbor Education Association.

While each district worked out their own arrangements, Oak Harbor teachers did receive pay for the day.

Jones explained teachers are paid for 180 days of teaching in a school year. For this day off the district used a paid “snow day,” which is budgeted into the schedule. In the event that schools actually need to close because of snow, that day or days will be have to be added onto the end of the school year, without pay.

“We’re counting on the ‘El Nino’ winter predictions,” Jones said.

The Coupeville School Board decided against closing schools for the day. Instead they were represented by a delegation from the community, school board and Coupeville Education Association.

Five Coupeville teachers and and three classified, non-teaching staff members who attended the rally were paid for the day. Superintendent Bill Mhyr said they will be recorded as active lobbyists.

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