Sunday, September 13, 2009


So the Kent School District teachers have been on strike for the past two weeks. This has had its most notable affect on Grubbstreet only in that we haven't heard school bells in the morning (while not in Kent proper (yet), we are part of the Kent School District, and our property backs on an KSD elementary school, and we contribute to the millage for support thereof.).

The strike has been first and foremost about class size (number of meetings and salaries are secondary issues, but it is class size that is apparently sticking in everyone's craw at the moment). The average size of an elementary school class is 33 kids, mandated by a previous contract. That number swells up to 45 students in high school, where no such cap exists.

That's a lot of kids to a classroom, so I can see the teachers pushing for reduced headcount. The Kent School District has been less accommodating, such that they've gone to court to fine the teachers heavily for walking out. Then they stopped negotiating. Then they started negotiating, but declared that school will reopen, no matter what, on Tuesday. No pressure, mind you.

Oh, and the teachers brought to the table a proposal costing less than what the school district was demanding of it. And the school district rejected it. I think we're just moved into the realm of union-busting here.

You'd think the parents, whose kids are being deprived of an education, and in addition are around the house for an additional two weeks, would be on the school board's side. Some are, but it seems like the bulk of them are supporting the teachers, to the point of movements to toss out the school board. Strange times indeed.

Now most of my data comes from the Seattle Times which is interesting in that it is providing both sides of the issue in an unusual way. When I read the reporting, I would say that it is pro-teachers (pointing out stuff like the fact that Kent SD has a $21 million budget right now). But the editorials are rock-solid pro-management - the teachers should quit all this silliness and get back to the cattle pens to instruct their kids. If they have to buy a megaphone, its coming out of their own pockets.

Now I have a modest proposal. Well, not a Modest Proposal because that would note that we have a surplus of students so we should start building additional schools out of them. Instead, here's this - no more development in Kent until we can provide the infrastructure to support that development. Seriously. We don't build another house in the area until we have schools that can service the additional population.

Kent has been a sprawling, expanding exurb, and dealing with that growth has been a major challenge to its elected officials. And to be honest, they haven't done too shabby a job, revitalizing their downtown and paying attention to growth and environmental issues. But the simple fact is that we have teachers working with huge classes and every school has a outpost of "temporary classrooms" that have become permanent. We're at the limits, so we need to stop taking more people in.

(And yeah, I could say "no more kids", but that's just unfair to prevent people from living somewhere just because they have children, so I'm willing to bite the bullet on behalf of the non-marrieds and childless couples and ban everybody).

It would solve a problem, and allow the school board to spend the money they're saving on bringing up the quality of the local education (already high, so thanks to both sides on this - I like smart kids). OR the school district could get serious about the talks and stop jerking the teachers, parents, and kids around to get the show back on the road and the kids back in school.

I offer this simply as a choice. No pressure.

More later,

Update: Strike settled as of Monday AM. Class size reduced for lower grades (good), but still uncapped for high school (good luck, kids!). Reduced meetings to 8/month and modest (very) pay raises. Teachers saw a lot of support from the community in all this despite the inconvenience for their kids. Still think we need to consider school capacity as a basic infrastructure concern for new development, but then, that's just me.