Teacher Strike Delays First Day Of School Near Seattle

A district near Seattle halted the first day of school as a Kent teacher strike following demands from educators.

By Erika Hanson | Published

National Teacher Unions Have Lost 200,000 Members

Kent teacher strike

A new school year has already started or is set to start for some 50 million public school children across the United States. Typically a celebratory time, some areas have had the school commencement day overshadowed by teacher strikes, such as in Ohio where a union strike forced students to start the school year remotely. Now, a district near Seattle has had the start of the year halted altogether, as the Kent teacher strike begins. 

The Kent Education Association – the union representing teachers in the district – has been negotiating with the school system for months to no avail. Educators have been asking for better pay, and smaller class sizes amid burdensome workloads and stress exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. The district, however, argues that a lack of funding is keeping them from meeting the union’s demands. Now, the Kent teacher strike officially began on Thursday, August 25th, or what was supposed to be the first day of school.

District officials made family and community members aware of the situation on the district’s official site. A message alert notifies visitors that the start of school will be postponed until the Kent teacher strikes ceases. During this time, school meals, and extracurricular activities are halted as well. However, the administrative staff remains available in offices for families who have to reach out. 

Educators have been at odds with the district since last July, according to a report from CNN. Leading to the Kent teacher strike, school staff felt that they weren’t receiving enough support from district leaders. Classroom sizes were said to be too large. A lack of support staff, like counselors, also was part of the problem. One teacher noted that a counselor is assigned to support roughly 400 students in a high school.

Some teachers fear that the swelling class sizes are due to a teacher shortage, which union officials believe is not being properly addressed by the district. Union President Tim Martin is nervous that the district is unable to compete with other school districts. This has put more stress on existing educators picketing during the Kent teacher strike.

An update on the district website states that officials from both sides fervently negotiated into the late hours of the night on Thursday, with no success. KOMO news took to the trenches yesterday to discuss the Kent teacher strike with picketing educators. A high school counselor asserted that the strike would not cease until people like her are given the support they need. She stated that she is overworked with no breaks and works 60 hours a week.

Kent teacher strike

The Kent teacher strike isn’t the only one of its kind happening in the nation right now. Columbus teachers similarly began their school year striking for smaller class sizes, better art and music education, and more. Similarly in Philadelphia, a bus driver union has authorized a strike if their demands aren’t soon met. Given the state of the economy and school system rattled by a pandemic, teacher strikes are increasingly becoming a normal part of the school year.