Kent teacher strike: Start of school year delayed, district offices remain open
KENT, Wash. - The start of the school year in the Kent school district has been delayed after the teacher's union voted to strike, the district wrote on its website.
Members of the Kent Education Association (KEA) Union said if the district could not reach a contract agreement by the end of bargaining day on Aug. 24, they would strike on Aug. 25, which would have been the first day of school.
According to the district, students and families can continue to get the following services:
- High school and middle school offices and the district central office will remain open.
- Families can continue to register their children through the district website.
- High school sports programs are continuing.
- All elementary and middle school activities are postponed until further notice.
- Meal service will resume when school begins.
The strike comes in response to KEA passing a vote of no confidence against the Kent School Board and Superintendent Israel Vela.
Union leaders said they have met with district officials several times since bargaining started in mid-July. Still, both sides have not come to an agreement on contract negotiations.
During negotiations, the union sought a pay raise to compete with rising healthcare and living costs, as well as ‘anti-union’ proposals from the district, "including language on discrimination."
Contact negations are still ongoing for office staff, maintenance workers and custodians, and IT. KEA says last year, principals went without a contract for up to eight months.
KEA says state budget funding would fully fund a pay raise, yet the district refuses to bend.
"The district has failed to engage in any proposal investing in students for the past six weeks and that’s why we’re at this point," said Kent EA President Tim Martin. "The district’s decision-makers aren’t educators. They don’t understand the issues we face in public schools."
"We are deeply committed to recruiting and retaining a high-quality workforce that serves to equip every student to be globally competitive in college, careers, and in life. We remain in negotiations with the KEA and remain committed to reaching an agreement and starting school as soon as possible," the district wrote, in part, on its website.
It's unclear when the school year will start.
FOX 13 has reached out to the district for comment.
The Kent School Board was previously under fire for considering banning an LGBTQ+ in middle school.