Teachers go on strike in southwest Washington state over class sizes

CAMAS, Wash. (AP) — Teachers in a small school district in southwestern Washington state are on strike over class sizes and other issues, postponing the start of the academic year.

The Camas Education Association was striking for a second day Tuesday — carrying signs and chanting outside several schools — after Monday’s bargaining session failed to yield a new contract deal with the Camas School District, The Columbian reported.

The union, which represents 460 staff members across the district, was picketing at several schools.

Union leaders said their requests to redirect surplus funding to keep class sizes smaller, increase funding for supplementary programs and improve special education support are not being heard.

“As educators, our priority is keeping our students in a positive learning environment,” Kate Gooding, a Camas High School English teacher, told the newspaper.

The district said in a statement that the union’s latest proposal included “higher than previously requested salary increases,” and it felt the union was regressing in talks.

The union’s latest formal proposal dated Aug. 27, however, shows the union did not request a salary raise that would go above what’s provided by the state’s annual inflationary factor. The district’s latest proposal shows it had offered the union a raise of 2% plus the inflationary factor.

“Nobody has asked for a raise,” said Joe Farland, an English teacher leading the strike Monday at Camas High School.

The district and union appear furthest apart on the maximum class size for kindergarten. The district has offered a maximum of 22 students while the union is seeking 18.

Nearby, in the much larger city of Vancouver, Washington, the Evergreen Education Association said Monday it was prepared to strike starting Wednesday if a contract deal isn’t reached with the Evergreen School District.

Elsewhere in the region, Battle Ground Education Association union members on Tuesday evening were planning to decide whether to ratify a tentative agreement with the Battle Ground School District or vote to strike.