Tacoma teachers will vote Tuesday whether to authorize strike

TACOMA, Wash. - Some school districts across the region have reached settlements averting a strike before the start of the school year, but Tacoma Public Schools are still in limbo.

Teachers want more than the 3.1% raise the district says they can provide. The teacher’s union and the school district have been going back and forth all weekend and if no deal is reached, the union will take a vote to strike on Tuesday.

The first day of school for Tacoma students is Thursday, September 6th.

“Trying to get her new shoes, new clothes, new school supplies, new pencils,” says Jamie Amaya who is making the last minute school supply run with her daughter who can’t wait to start the first grade this year.

“I’m excited because I’m going to meet new friends,” said Amaya’s daughter.

Meeting new friends may be on hold if Tacoma Public Schools can’t reach a deal with the teacher’s union who are fighting for more pay.

“It’s unfortunate because it affects the kids, but I do believe they need a raise,” said Amaya.

The battle is over 2 billion dollars in the state budget for teacher salaries which came out of the McCleary decision which pumps $9.2 billion into public education over the next six years.

“On one hand yes, the state increased what they’re giving us by about $50 million, but on the other hand, they took away about $46 million that we're getting from our local levy. It’s essentially a wash for Tacoma Public Schools,” said Dan Voelpel with the Tacoma School District.

Voelpel says the school district can only provide a 3.1% raise, but parents in Pierce County are siding with teachers who say that’s not enough.

“You should be able to make a livable wage as an educator, I believe, and if that means that the teachers have to strike, then I support that. I think we need to retain as much talent here in Pierce County as we can,” said Jenni Chadick, a mom who lives in Tacoma.

The Tacoma Education Association says their teachers aren’t going to settle for a 3.1% raise and as they see districts like Seattle reaching agreements with double-digit raises they’re frustrated that Tacoma can’t do more.

“We felt we were at an impasse and we weren’t making enough progress,” said Voelpel.

The district called in a mediator because of that impasse and both sides tell us they’ve been negotiating all weekend with no deal yet, leaving parents in Pierce County putting last-minute childcare on the back to school list too.