Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Tacoma School District


The voters guide statement you’ll only read here

UPDATE: This posting now also includes the “against” statement drafted by Ken Miller.

Robert Hill, currently residing at the Pierce County Jail, was 12 minutes late submitting this statement opposing the Tacoma School District’s proposed $500 million bond measure on the Feb. 12 ballot. So the voters pamphlet will only have a statement in support of the measure. See the news article here.

Don’t get me wrong: I fully support Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson’s decision not to accept the statement. Rules are rules, and if the rules are stretched 12 minutes for one statement, why not 12 hours? Couldn’t the other side sue the county if it were to break its rules?

In a Friday editorial, we criticize the way statement writers are selected in Pierce County: by the governing body that is putting a funding measure on the ballot. How aggressive will a school district or transit agency really be to seek out people to write a cogent “against” statement? We think the process needs to be refined to either have a less biased party make the selection or require the governing body to do more to solicit statement writers.

Anyway, here’s Hill’s unedited statement, which he emailed to our office on New Year’s Eve. It’s not all that great, but I’ve certainly seen worse statements in voters pamphlets. And credit Hill for at least being willing to take on the task that others were unwilling to do. Read more »


Voters guide statement fiascos show change is needed

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Pierce County now has had back-to-back debacles over who writes the “against” statement that appears in the voters pamphlet.

Both involve a notorious local felon and publicity hound, Robert “The Traveler” Hill, and they reflect obvious flaws in how statement writers are selected.

In the first case, Hill applied to write the statement opposing last fall’s Pierce Transit tax measure. Only one other person applied, and he said he wouldn’t participate if he had to collaborate on the statement with Hill – a jail inmate who’s had widely publicized, bizarre run-ins with the law. The Pierce Transit board’s lawyer reportedly said that no candidate could be rejected unless there were at least four applicants.
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Lincoln community reaps benefits of Kitna’s life lessons

Lincoln High School football coach Jon Kitna discusses a play with the team before heading out to their first game against Bonney Lake Sept 1. Lincoln won the game 34-27. (LUI KIT WONG/Staff photographer)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

We needed a good-news sports story. On Friday, News Tribune columnist John McGrath gave us a doozie. (Click here to read it.)

Too often we’ve been disappointed by sports heroes who turned out to have feet of clay. Think of Lance Armstrong’s doping accusations, Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, and any number of athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is a refreshing contrast. When his 15-season pro football career ended, he chose to give back to the community where he grew up – at a fraction of his NFL salary – and share his gridiron expertise with his alma mater, Tacoma’s Lincoln High School.

Kitna, who was hired in January to coach football and teach math at Lincoln, is imparting other lessons as well, complementing what Principal Pat Erwin is trying to do in the classroom with Lincoln Center. They are character-building life lessons that would serve any young person well, but particularly young men attending school in one of the city’s less affluent neighborhoods, where the lure of gangs is strong, expectations are low and dropout rates are high. Read more »


A special place for families opens in South Tacoma

Metro Parks' STAR Center is open in South Tacoma. (Russ Carmack/Courtesy of Metro Parks Tacoma)

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The era of tight budgets and declining revenues has had at least one positive side effect: It’s forced many public agencies to rethink their old fiefdom mentalities and focus on how they can partner to provide services in economical ways that don’t overlap.

That kind of new thinking is on display in spades at the South End Recreational Adventure Campus, which includes a Boys & Girls Club Topping Hope Center, Gray Middle School, Metro Parks ballfields and the park district’s shiny new STAR Center, which opens for public use today.  (A community open house will be held May 19.)

The STAR Center – STAR stands for South Tacoma Activity and Recreation – is a $16 million facility on South 66th Street that replaces the South Park and Manitou community centers. It’s designed to complement the recreational and educational programming provided by the Tacoma School District and the Boys & Girls Club. Read more »


A little teacher strike irony

I found it a little ironic Saturday when I read that the Tacoma teachers union was upset that striking teachers’ pay would be delayed (TNT, 9-24). Their first paycheck Oct. 5 will only cover the two days they actually worked before going out on strike. The district claims state law prohibits it from paying for work not done.

Tacoma Education Association president Andy Coons disputes that. He told reporter Debbie Cafazzo that the delay was “retaliatory” on the district’s part. “You are going to have 2,000 families not being able to make their mortgages, not being able to pay

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Thank Chris Gregoire for ending Tacoma’s pointless strike

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

An old conspiracy theory holds that the Washington Education Association – the state teachers union – targets a school district every so often and urges its local union affiliate to stage a bruising strike.

The resulting school closure is as much a display of raw power – a cautionary tale for other districts and the Legislature – as it is a quarrel over the terms of a contract.

We’ve never seen proof, but the strike in Tacoma certainly doesn’t weaken the theory.

The final contract agreement – forcefully brokered by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday – was no great coup for either the Tacoma Education Association or the school district.

The 2011 Legislature had ordained a 1.9 percent cut in teacher compensation, and it eliminated funding earmarked for holding down class size. In the end, the TEA – which had sought reductions in class sizes – more or less hung on to the status quo, though it gave up a training day that translated into a .5 percent pay cut.

The real flash point was the district’s insistence that administrators be allowed more discretion over which schools teachers are assigned. The union insisted on a traditional system that emphasized seniority.
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While teachers walk picket lines, many students go hungry

This editorial is scheduled to appear in Thursday’s print edition. Should Tacoma teachers agree to go back to work before our print deadline, a different editorial will appear Thursday.

Making sure kids are learning is the most important reason to end Tacoma’s teacher strike, and it’s why Gov. Chris Gregoire’s intervention in the contract negotiations is welcome.

But there’s another reason teachers need to go back to work: making sure many of their students aren’t going hungry.

About 18,000 students – more than half of Tacoma schoolchildren – are from families so poor that they qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch. Not all of those children actually take advantage of the program. But for those who do, the food they get at school may be the only regular, nutritious meals they get all day. Read more »


Teachers should vote – to remain in their classrooms

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Both sides in the contract dispute between the Tacoma School District and its teachers claim to want what’s best for the kids.

They have starkly different visions of what that is. Teachers want to hold the line on salaries, class sizes, and policies regarding displacements and transfers. School administrators, facing state and federal mandates to improve performance and the prospect of yet more budget cutbacks, want more flexibility from the teachers union so that they can deal with those challenges.

Here’s what’s unquestionably best for kids: to be in school. Tomorrow.

Tacoma’s teachers should vote today not to strike, to keep teaching and to continue negotiating without a contract. If they do vote to strike, the administration should immediately seek a court injunction. Any judge that gets the case should assess daily fines on teachers who do not report to their classrooms.
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