No one likes a strike, certainly not one by school teachers. The one in Bellevue is particularly upsetting.
The Bellevue School District has a well-deserved reputation for delivering top-notch education. Bellevue teachers are some of the best in the state, if not the nation.
So, what’s wrong?
Let’s start by backing up to last year when the district found that its budget was off by several million. It was dipping in to its reserves to pay its bills.
Some of the shortfall was the result of higher expenses. Part was misjudging when revenue would arrive. The result is that the school board has had to cut the district’s $164 million operating budget by $4.8 million.
The district wants to hold down expenses this year so it can rebuild its reserves. That’s a prudent approach. Teachers want to see a better pay raise than what the district has offered. Who can blame them; most can’t afford to live where they teach.
There’s also the issue of the Curriculum Web, a system in which the district lists on a website what each class should be doing and learning step-by-step throughout the school year.
The district says it helps guarantee that all students will get the same instruction. It also means that as students progress from school to school, their education will be seamless. That makes sense.
But it comes at a price, teachers say. The classroom mix in one school might not be the same as at another. Even within the same classroom, there are student differences. Some kids race ahead with the material. Others need more help and time. The Curriculum Web doesn’t allow for the differences, teachers say.
The solution is somewhere between both sides.
The district is right to want all kids to get the same information and instruction. But the system needs to be flexible enough to allow teachers to use their professional judgment on what should be taught when.
The same is true with pay. Yes, teachers need and deserve more for what they do in the classroom. But it’s irresponsible for a school district to operate with scant reserves.
Can the district offer a better pay raise and take a bit longer to rebuild its reserves? Can the teachers accept that the district has its hands tied by financial circumstances?
Both sides want the best for students. If that is kept in mind, this should be a short strike.