Letters to the Editor

Your views in 200 words or less

TACOMA: What’s the status of teacher contract talks?

Letter by Sally Perkins, Tacoma on July 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm with 45 Comments »
July 22, 2011 4:56 pm

Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition, a new and growing community group, is pushing for Tacoma teachers’ contract provisions that help improve student learning and close the achievement gap.

Vibrant Schools is focusing on the teachers’ contract because it shapes policies that directly impact student learning. We have laid out a platform that our polling shows is supported by a majority of Tacoma residents. We urge the negotiating parties – Tacoma Public Schools and Tacoma Education Association – to listen to the community’s voice and adopt the platform. The platform and more information about Vibrant Schools can be found here.

We also urge the negotiating parties to be transparent about the process, which includes posting the bargaining framework, proposals and counterproposals on the district website, similar to what is being done in other local school districts, including Bellevue and Kent.

The community cannot be knowledgeable about the situation unless both parties provide regular updates. As of July 20, 2011, neither the district nor the union has provided updated information about the negotiations, beyond their very general initial “interest” statements, despite multiple requests.

On behalf of our students, we’d like to be very clear: School must start on time, with a contract designed to increase student achievement and close the achievement gap. It is past time for the district and the union to update the community on their progress and to tell us how they have utilized the concepts in the Vibrant Schools platform to set the stage for greater student progress.

Leave a comment Comments → 45
  1. Thank you Sally- I am a certified employee of TPS and have been very frustrated along with many of my colleagues. We have asked TEA what the bargaining issues are and could they be posted on the TEA website – there has been no response. Upon calling the TEA office to find out what the progress of bargaining was and when the bargaining points were going to be made public to the members and the community, I was told that someone would get back to me- weeks have passed. I love my job and want to get back to work in Sept. At the end of the school year certified employees were asked to publicly state in writing on form, which included their name and address. if they would vote for a strike or not if bargaining was stalled. The union said that this would be a tool they could use during bargaining. Many employees were aghast that the union wanted the names of who would and who wouldn’t vote for a strike. A straw poll is one thing, but this was another. We still have no idea what the major issues of contention are.

  2. After reading all the information provided about Vibrant Schools and their positions, I agree with all but one statement concerning research showing that the teacher is the most important factor in a child’s education. The parents are the most important factor in a child’s education. The support a child gets at home regarding his/her education is everything. University Place School District is the shining star in the South Puget Sound- UP is made up of incredible parents sending kids to school who are prepared to learn and whose academics are supported and encouraged at home. An average teacher can excel when given a classroom of motivated students.

  3. How do you get the parents and students to sign onto a bargaining agreement between the district and the union/employees? You may have all the commitments you want. However, until parents and students do their part in the educational process there will be failure. If I recall Vibrant School representatives already had the excuse that poor people leave everything to the schools, i.e., there is no personal responsibility to be expected. So, children will continue to enter kindergarten unprepared and continue to disengage from the educational process.

    If I recall from persons I know in the educational field, the district has hired at public expense negotiators to enter contract talks with the union/employees. I wonder who they have hired, do you?

  4. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    It is confounding that the district and the union would negotiate a contract about how students are taught without soliciting input from the parents and students.

    The negotiating parties can’t conduct themselves as if this is just private deal between Tacoma Schools and the TEA. It is not. Parents and Students have an intense interest in the result, and the negotiations must take that fact into account.

  5. As far as the TEA is concerned- negotiations have nothing to do with whether students are successful, it is about maintaining consistent, lucrative employment with no conditions or definitions of competence. Getting the best bang for the buck for the people TEA represents. This is an employer/employee bargaining event. Nothing more.

  6. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    rosie12 –

    Sorry, but I strongly disagree. If you have a contract that protects teachers based on seniority, that affects which teachers teach which subjects, that dismisses younger teachers with STEM expertise because a more senior English Lit teacher has more years in, then the contract outcome has a direct and prominent impact on students.

    Don’t pretend this is some isolated bubble that does not affect student performance, because that is simply not true and leads further down the road to sub-par educational achievement.

  7. Rollo- What I said is that the TEA doesn’t give a hoot about student performance-They realize they have a great slogan in ” It’s about the kids” and they use it. What other union wouldn’t love to have that edge. In truth, they believe their job is to negotiate the best deal for their members, continue to collect a enormous amount of money in dues and be the most influential lobbying group in this country. If it was really about the kids, would they fight charter schools or vouchers? Would they continue to hold on to seniority and fight any kind of accountability? I agree with you, but TEA is on a very different page than you are and the community is.

  8. tree_guy says:

    Quit worrying about the achievement gap. If some of the students come from families where expectations are low or non existant and are attracted to the entitlement lifestyle of their parents why should the taxpayers become overly concerned? You want a dependent electorate, and you’re getting it.

  9. You have a good point Tree Guy

  10. blakeshouse says:

    Add what Tree Guy said to the fact that the public schools here are nothing more than socialist indoctrination camps and the entitlement mentality not only comes home to roost but is instilled to one extent or another to ALL students. I just thank god I was able to afford to put mine thru private school so they actually got an education.

  11. truthbusterguy says:

    When will people wake up and realize we must make changes in our public school system. The unions are killing our kids chances for a future.

    Look at what the results are in Fla. after they allowed competition in schools.

    WA state democrats will continue to cut school budgets to fund social programs for their base of support. They don’t have the will to make these needed changes and want you to do it for them so they can keep getting $$$ from the teachers union. Ask Larry Seaquist and he will tell you this. He wants you to solve this problem not the (D’s) in Olympia.

  12. great article truthbuster guy- thanks for posting it.

  13. spotted1 says:

    And here is what happens when you demand that teachers improve test scores and skills for students that may or may not be ready for those tests:


    I would like to thank BOTH the REPUBLICANS for signing NCLB into Law and the DEMOCRATS for refusing to do anything to change it.

  14. spotted1 says:

    rosie12…I challenge you to show me one group out there that supports education in any way that does not use the slogan, “It’s about the kids”. This very letter is “about the kids”. Everyone, regardless of whether it is parents, teachers, administrators, or the President of the USA will use some form of that slogan for their purpose.

    And yet, we still punish schools for “failing”. Which means that 1 group fo 30 some categories can be below standard and the school fails.

    Here is the question that no one has truly answered. What do kids truly need to know when they graduate? At what level are they required to read at? At what level should they be required to do math? Right now, everything is in preparation for college entrance. Do all kids truly need that? This paper is probably written at a 6th grade reading level. As is most other writing in the United States that people read…

    So tell me, what is a successful student going to look like? What skills do they need?

  15. PumainTacoma says:

    No mention of the short work year for these people, the 7 hour days, the “so called planning time” that is used to run errands when they are suppose to be working, no mention of the extra pay for extra work, the extra money for loading a copying machine, or longevity pay for just working for a living.

    The system of pay and benefits is broken. Pay for performance, merit pay is the only way to go. None of this seat time garbage. You have no “right” to a job. You have to work regardless of your seat time. And if your complaining about getting paid $50 bucks an hour and don’t work summers, then stop your complaining.

    150,000+ people are unemployed looking for work.

  16. spotted1 says:

    PumainTacoma, as you describe it teaching is an easy profession. With so many people out of work, perhaps those who have a desire should go to college for the training and become a teacher. It is, after all, just a 7 hour a day job, planning time that is used for errands, extra pay for extra work, etc. The job you describe would be an easy one.

    Yet, I know few teachers who work only 7 hours a day. Those that do are probably not very good. The extra pay that they get for extra work usually is coaching, grading papers instead of spending time with family, taking classes that are required, planning lessons so the students will learn, etc.

    Until you can show me a truly accurate and fair way to pay for performance, it will not happen. What is fair and accurate to compare a teacher in a poor area to say Mercer Island? What test are you going to use? What skills are you going to test? How are you going to test them? How are you going to deal with the parents who tell their kid they don’t have to go to school? Or, what about the kid whose home life is trashed and they are barely surviving? Put your plan out there.

    If teaching is so easy as you describe. Become a teacher have all those so-called benefits.

  17. “150,000+ people are unemployed looking for work.”

    I wonder how many could pass the GED series of tests if they where given the tests today.

  18. “Until you can show me a truly accurate and fair way to pay for performance, it will not happen. What is fair and accurate to compare a teacher in a poor area to say Mercer Island? What test are you going to use? What skills are you going to test? How are you going to test them? How are you going to deal with the parents who tell their kid they don’t have to go to school? Or, what about the kid whose home life is trashed and they are barely surviving? Put your plan out there.”

    I agree. It just not that simple.

    I think all the folks looking for a simple answer need to spend time volunteering in the Tacoma school district classrooms.

  19. spotted1 says:

    fatuous, I like your comments.

    As far as volunteering. I have pondered this. I don’t know that some people should volunteer in the classrooms. They would probably just look for things to complain about rather than actually helping. Though, there should be a couple of those 150,000 people who could work in the classroom as a volunteer and do some good for students.

  20. olympicmtn says:

    Spotted. Go look at the early 2000 audit for extra pay for extra work from Tacoma. Brian Sonntag ripped the district apart for pay for copying papers, and playing cards with kids. Many people work over 7 hours a day and don’t expect pay. I work 60 hour weeks without overtime and I am a professional. Sounds like the teachers are complaining about how bad they have it. One word, then quit!

  21. newscrap says:

    I don’t think they are COMPLAINING about how hard they work, just correcting the misconception that they only work 7 hours a day spend “planning time” running errands. Besides, it is bull puckey that the righties say that no one has the right to try to improve their working situation just because others are unemployed. How many of those unemployed would be qualified to teach? It is not as easy and the ignorant seem to think. But since you all went to school that makes you all experts.

  22. newscrap says:

    I haved worked in both public AND private schools and the only benefit to private is smaller class sizes and control of who gets in and who doesn’t. I think if you feel that you paid for a better education in a provatge school you wasted your money. There are advantages to private schoolsf but the quality of teaching and what is taught is pretty much the same–sorry man.

  23. RidingintheRain says:

    NC I have to disagree with you. Look at the test scores, SAT and CAT tests not the made-up state ones. Private school students ARE doing better! As with the teaching we go through not only the requirements for the state but also extra certification for private schools. Look at the number of Homeschoolers and Private school graduates who are excelling and entering high-level colleges and taking home scholarships to go there. I teach at a private school. I make less than my public school peer with less benefits. We are able to do all this at a fraction of the cost to put a student through public school. Do you think your child is worth it now? It’s time to bring in vouchers and let parents decide on their child’s education.

  24. newscrap says:

    I have taught both. Guess WHY private do better? It is the students you get not how great you teach. Inpublic school I had students on house arrest from juvinile hall, inprivagte I have wealthy parents that care about their kids. You can’t compare the poor public schools that take ALL kids to the privagte that select only the ones they want. If a kid does nothing in privagte yhou can get rid of him. It is the kids you get man, not YOUR great job of teaching.

  25. newscrap says:

    sorry for the typos

  26. Let’s be honest- the people who go into teaching are in the lowest 25% of college population. Not all, but most. This is documented. The teaching track is a no brainer. What is scary is that this is the group that the administrators are taken from.This is the group that the TEA is pulled from. The pay, time off and benefits are great. To get a master’s degree takes around 9 months- on weekends. We do get pay for extra work- even belonging to a book club on diversity. No one would leave this job.
    The security is unbelievable.

  27. RidingintheRain says:

    NC It is interesting that you know all about my private school. I also see that you have swallowed the NEA garbage that they deal out hook-line-and-sinker! We are the lowest tuition in the area. We have 20% of our student on scholarships, some of our students come from low income homes with caring grandparents that pay they way. No we are far from the “spoiled, rich kids” that the NEA says we are. Just students with caring parents. We also don’t just “kick” students out when we can’t deal wtih them. Another lie from the NEA. As a tuition based school we want to keep all our students and work with parents. Imagine that! And yes, I have taught in public school too. I would rather teach in a caring environment that works with parents and cares about learning then follow the NEA but you go right ahead. I’ll just go back to teaching, isn’t that what we are here for?

  28. As in any profession, there are excellent teachers and there are poor ones. Lazy ones might be a more apt description. There are extraordinarily bright teachers in the mix, and some of average intelligence too. While I appreciate the notion of merit pay, I think it quite difficult to measure merit when it comes down to it.

    All that said, I’ve always thought teachers should be very grateful for the working conditions most of them have. No other job allows for so much time off to be with one’s own family; to get home at a decent hour, etc. I too have taught in both public and private schools and there ARE indeed significant differences. Class size matters because it gives teachers more opportunity to work one-on-one with students. But, ultimately, it IS the parental attititude towards school that makes all the difference. Unions once protected workers, but they are so corrupt now, I find it difficult to support them in any way.

  29. “But, ultimately, it IS the parental attititude towards school that makes all the difference.”


    Parents that value education, motivate their children, and make sure their kids associate with peers that value education will be successful in school.

    “Unions once protected workers, but they are so corrupt now, I find it difficult to support them in any way. ”

    I don’t know about corruption, but one can say they are too good at protecting their members. The problem with unions like many other organizations is that a few with strong opinions control the direction, mostly due to lack of interest by the membership.

  30. stradivari says:

    Teachers are the heroes of public schools. They are committed to the students, the community and are passionate about their subjects. They deal with American humanity and the human condition as it enters the school doors each morning. Teachers are not only required to teach effectively, but to do do so in ways constrictive ways developed by social scientists and adopted by politicians–not educators.

    As to collective bargaining, elections matter. Weak school boards like Tacoma’s that hire unqualified administrators who don’t understand how to bargain in good faith, who feel they must hire outside union buster goons to go up against their loyal employees lie at the base of the problems in education. Vote out and replace poor performing school board members and demand that adminstrators are competent and willing to support kids, parents and the professional educators in the classroom and at the bargaining table in a fair and honest way.

  31. “Vote out and replace poor performing school board members and demand that adminstrators are competent and willing to support kids, parents and the professional educators in the classroom and at the bargaining table in a fair and honest way. ”

    I don’t think most folks know who to vote for.

    Take a look at the candidates for the Tacoma school district. Do any of them actually have a plan of action that you can read?

  32. newscrap says:

    Don’t sprain your arm patting yourself on the back. I taught in public schools for many years and have been in private schools for many years. I am not sure what level you tgeach, but at the high school level I had students just as bright, just as motivated, with caring parents, and went on to accomplish amazing things. I also had students that had no one at home who cared, were abused, spent time in jail, and had severe learing disabilities. I have none of these at the private school. Take the kids that live in a car, have substance abuse problems, learing disabities ( and I don’t mean just learn slow) and then tell me how great a job you are doing. As the the NEA/WEA running everyghint, I did not get a directive as to how/what to teach from them the entire time I was in public schools. I am not antiprivate, just honest–too bad you can’t be.

  33. stradivari-
    With such a powerful union as the TEA- it doesn’t matter who is on the school board. Jim Dugan- the only competent board member- is stepping down because he knew this. Some teachers are amazing, but we all know that there are so many incompetent teachers- we know who they are. There will never be an administrator that the TEA approves of unless it is an administrator who does not insist on competence and goes with the status quo. By the way the WASL was created by educators. The democrats have been in control of the house and senate since 2006- the party of the TEA- and have not changed NCLB which was authored by Ted Kennedy- a liberal democrat and was called by John Kerry when he signed it as “The most important bill of this century”

  34. “There will never be an administrator that the TEA approves of unless it is an administrator who does not insist on competence and goes with the status quo.”

    So why should we care if they approve?

    Where are the Vibrant Schools Tacoma Coalition candidates for the Tacoma school board? At least, they have a plan.

    The Democrats may control the Washington state House and Senate, but they don’t control the initiative and referendum process.

  35. BigSwingingRichard says:


    Lets see if these loyal teachers are stupid enough to strike during a recession.

    I hope they do strike and then maybe the taxpayers in Tacoma will finally get fed up enough to vote down a school levy.

    Reducing or eliminating TRI pay should force the pension qualified to elect retirement. By replacing them with young, less indoctrinated teachers would be the first step towards improving this low performing, high cost school district.

  36. spotted1 says:

    Please explain to me where the idea of indoctrinated teachers comes from. It seems that this country, regardless of who is in power or what the political issues of the world are, has been involved in indoctrination.

    What about the longshoremen or Boeing workers? Are they any less indoctrinated to strike when they are not fairly compensated and demand better pay? Shoot look at the mess over the new Boeing plant and the complaints about it. But I imagine that those compaints are “only good for the employees” and not indoctrination.

    Besides, show me an outstanding teacher the first year out of college. Show me any school that puts itself together with only first and second year teachers and is widely successful in the long run.

  37. spotted1 says:

    It doesn’t matter who created the WASL, which is by the way put out by a test publishing company that is getting alot of money to now put out the MSPE and HSPE. It is still driven by the fact that each state must have a test by which the NCLB can evaluate schools. That evaluation creates an environment where no one really cares about the students, they only care about the test scores. Because if you have one failing cell out of over 30, your school is a failure. Period. End of story.

  38. spotted1 says:

    A note on private schools. It is true that there are widely successful schools that are privately owned and operated that cater to the lowest portions of our society. Those with low incomes and struggling issues.

    The difference, and I can say this from working in private schools, is two fold. One, the parents want their kids to be successful and place high expectations upon them. Two, the parents know that their child, in that private school, can be removed from said school and not return if their grades and behavior are not up to par with the standards of the institution. This is due to the high demand for placement in the private schools and the fact that private schools do not have to keep the student population in their system.

    Public education is required to teach ALL students. Even those who have been expelled, have criminal records, come to school with ankle monitors, whose parents don’t care if they show up, whose parents never believe or support the school, whose parents actively and aggressively attack the schools for the poor job theiir child is doing, even though their child may be at fault.

    Imagine if you went to your job, your employees only showed up once every twenty days and you couldn’t get rid of them. That is what public education deals with in every school. Boeing can throw out parts that are broken and don’t work, public education is not allowed to throw out students.

  39. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    spotted1 –

    That is a pretty ridicules note. If a teacher has one or more students who attend school less than 10 times a year and that teacher doesn’t fail that student, the teacher is the primary problem, not the student.

    The same is true for the rest of your list of malfeasance’s – the teacher has a professional responsibility to fix problems before they affect other students. If the teacher ignores that responsibility, it is the teacher’s that is at fault, not just the student.

    Blame is not that easily transferable.

  40. “The same is true for the rest of your list of malfeasance’s – the teacher has a professional responsibility to fix problems before they affect other students. If the teacher ignores that responsibility, it is the teacher’s that is at fault, not just the student.”

    Rollo_Tomassi, if your boss doesn’t support your decision, then there is nothing you can do but quit or stop caring.

  41. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Spotted1, Rollo, Larry:

    All good and valid points, however, if a teacher has no real power to have an effect on how a school is run, then the school is dysfunctional.

    If the law says all kids must be in school and this negatively impacts the interested students, the law should be changed.

    There are many other changes that could be made to improve the public school system, however, the single greatest impediment to change is the teachers’ union, which circles back to my point regarding union indoctrination.

    Teachers should not be required to be in a union. This way, if the union does not react to the needs of the teachers, they can choose not to pay into a system which resists making the changes necessary to improve schools.

    If teachers really are focused on implementing the changes to be like public schools, then the walls of resistance needs to be demolished.

  42. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    fatuous –

    Quitting an honorable profession because it has turned dishonorable is a noble thing. Every professional has a job to do, and should be expected to do it well. If your employer attempts to prevent you from doing your job well, one should object and protest, not demur and shuffle away.

    If a job is not worth doing well, why even do it?

  43. Sally, rosie12 and everyone else: Visit http://www.WeTeachTacoma.org for information about contract negotiations in Tacoma. The site is hosted by TEA. I’m a Tacoma parent, and we all want school to start on time. But we also need to protect class sizes and maintain our ability to attract and keep great teachers for our kids. Our students deserve that. That means the Tacoma School Board needs to negotiate a settlement that focuses on what’s best for kids in the classroom, both with policy decisions and budget priorities. Tacoma teachers are committed to their students’ education, and it’s offensive to suggest otherwise.

  44. rwood
    I just read http://www.WeTeachTacoma.org
    This has nothing concrete on it . What is ‘we have an interest in”-? It was vague and very negative towards Tacoma Public Schools and the bargaining team TPS is using to unit to maintain objectivity. I think there are definite advantages to hiring an outside bargaining It sounds like TEA has already decided to strike and went into bargaining with that outcome in mind.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0