Kent teachers to strike first day of class if contract with school district cannot be reached

Union teachers in Kent could strike the first day of classes if no contract is reached with the school board.

The Kent Education Association (KEA), a union representing educators in Kent, voted Monday to authorize a strike beginning Aug. 25 and passed a vote of no confidence against the Kent School Board and Superintendent Israel Vela.

The strike will begin if the school district and union cannot reach an agreement on a new contract by Wednesday, Aug. 24.

"Our district is behind nearby districts, and we’re worried Kent’s ability to attract and retain the educators our kids need," said KEA President Tim Martin.

Union officials say they and the district have met several times since bargaining began in July. On Aug. 19, the union requested a mediator from the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission.

The union claims to seek a pay raise to compete with rising healthcare and living costs, as well as ‘anti-union’ proposals from the district, "including language on discrimination."

KEA says state budget funding would fully fund a pay raise, yet the district refuses to bend.

"We really hope the district sees reason," said Natalie Bachman, a kindergarten teacher at Horizon Elementary. "I’m eager to start the school year with my students. I hope it doesn’t come down to a strike, but we just can’t work under the anti-teacher conditions the district is proposing."

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The Kent School Board was previously under fire for considering banning an LGBTQ+ in middle school.