Centralia teachers set to strike Tuesday

CENTRALIA, Wash. -- Centralia teachers are set to strike on Tuesday, September 4, according to the Centralia Education Association.

Teachers in Centralia began meeting with representatives from the school district in April, but an agreement has not been reached.

“We wanted to get started early, so that we could avoid a situation that would prevent us from starting school on time. Our students in Centralia deserve the best teachers, and having a competitive wage in our community would provide an opportunity for the best teachers to want to come here, and stay here,” said Lauri Johnson, Centralia Education Association President.

Johnson, a middle and high school vocal music teacher, says she has seen turnover rate increase exponentially: “We had 40 open positions this year in June. We only have around 220 teachers in our district. Over one-fifth of our teachers leave Centralia every year for higher-paying districts nearby."

Adding: “Centralia has become a stepping stone for teachers. This has been a place to hone their skills and quickly move on to other districts that provide better pay and more support,” Johnson added.

Centralia teachers say they are simply asking for the money the state allocated for their pay increases.

They want to have support for their EL and SPED teachers, planning time and structures in our schools that will provide every child and every staff member a safe environment in which to learn and teach.

“The state sent $2.1 million dollars specifically for pay increases for teachers in Centralia. Many districts did as the state requested and passed those funds directly to their teachers. The Centralia School District wants to keep the money to inflate their savings account,” Johnson said.

For the past three fiscal years, the Centralia School District has ended the year with more than $5 million dollars in the bank, according to the Education Association.

“Centralia School District has more than enough money to give teachers the significant pay increases from the state, continue to build beautiful schools for their communities AND have a healthy amount of money left in the bank at the end of the year. Our teachers are ready to start the year and we are excited to meet our students. Now, the school board needs to actively get involved to provide us a serious contract. Until then, we are on strike,” Johnson said.