Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: Tacoma schools


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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The poor and disabled are hurt by this strike of choice

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

This morning, the Tacoma School District will ask Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff to order the city’s striking teachers back into their classrooms. If the decision hinges on the law – and the welfare of children and their families – there’s only one way he can go.

In its negotiations with the district, the Tacoma Education Association has been pushing for contract provisions that other unions might be pushing for under the same circumstances: protection from pay cuts, additional work and the judgment of principals.

Understandable. What’s not understandable is the strike itself. The teachers could keep on working while their union leaders keep on bargaining, something routinely done when a union contract expires while a new one is being negotiated.

In voting to strike Monday, the TEA and its members showed precious little empathy for the district’s largely low-income families.

Concerns about what’s happening to schoolchildren are callously dismissed. The mantra: “Schools aren’t day care centers.”
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Put single-sex education in principals’ tool box

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Pardon Jon Kellett for assuming Washington state was as interested in educational innovation as the federal government.

Last year, Kellett – the principal of Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma – launched what looked like a promising experiment in single-sex education.

Sixth-grade boys and girls were taught their core subjects in separate classrooms; the arrangement was to continue when they reached the seventh grade, phasing in separation-by-sex for all students in math, science and humanities.

Single-sex education is controversial in the public schools; some view it with deep suspicion, believing

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Tacoma school strike threatens unconscionable family distress

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Decisions to strike are made by unions, so the responsibility for opening Tacoma’s schools on time Thursday rests squarely on the Tacoma Education Association.

Advice: Be there for the children.

This is not question of caving in on everything vs. shutting down the schools. The TEA has a third option – temporarily working without a contract, which is commonly done when public employee unions are at impasse with employers.

It’s not a good option, just the least bad. The school district and the union must figure out how to swallow the Legislature’s

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Don’t test those sleepy students

I won’t use the name of the Wilson High School student who e-mailed the following letter to the editor. No sense in needlessly embarrassing him. This is exactly how it came in.

There is a simple way to improve test scores across the State,and it’s free ! Do not give it the week of the time change. There is some sleepy students at 7:35 am around here.

My guess is that writing isn’t this student’s strongest suit. At least I hope not. However, the basic premise of his letter is sound: It could be a good idea to avoid giving

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Vote to support your local schools

Tuesday is an important one for many South Sound school districts. They need voters to either get to the polls or remember to turn in their absentee ballots and support continuation of important maintenance and operation levies.

Those levies aren’t about frills. Although the state supposedly funds basic education – and a King County judge disputes that – school districts would have a hard time educating students and complying with state and federal mandates without levy money. In fact, levies fund about 20 percent of districts’ budgets. Without it, schools would have to cut down to the barest of bones.

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Is it really this hard to fire a teacher?

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

It’s understandable if a teacher occasionally loses his or her temper and yells at students. Few parents – who are most familiar with how easy it is to go ballistic when kids misbehave – would begrudge that kind of lapse.

But a Tacoma kindergarten teacher appears to have escalated from expressing exasperation to downright bullying. And the process the school district has gone through with him shows how hard it can be to convince an employee to find another line of work voluntarily.

Michael Barnett, who has been on paid leave from Lyon Elementary School since November, has been accused of grabbing one of his kindergartners and pushing her to the ground. A parent complained to school officials, who reported it to police. A report has been turned over to the prosecutor’s office. Read more »


Tacoma schools: Focus on operations levy first

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

No doubt about it, the Tacoma School District needs to get its school renovation program back on track.

The failure of successive capital campaigns in 2006 and 2008 has effectively created a district of haves and have-nots. Some kids go to school in attractive new buildings hard-wired for the latest technology; others attend class in dank and dingy buildings heated by 80-year-old boilers and covered by leaky roofs.

The Tacoma School Board is appropriately eager to get a school-construction measure passed. But before it sends a proposed $140 million capital levy to the ballot next week, the board should consider tweaking its timing.

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