Second-graders in Bellevue were back in class and teachers resumed live virtual instruction on Tuesday, but only after their union spent a week defying the belief of the school district, students, parents, administrators, public health officials and even Gov. Inslee that in-person learning can be implemented safely.
By all indications, in fact, the impasse wasn’t broken until rank-and-file members themselves voted to return to work over the clear objections of union leaders.
In announcing the Jan. 26 settlement, Bellevue Education Association President Allison Snow huffed:
“We acknowledged that in this agreement the district has failed to address our central concern of forcing staff back to buildings before they have access to a vaccine and ignored once again our call to pause district plans until more provisions can be put into place. Despite these omissions, we also acknowledged the wide range of needs and opinions among our membership and the challenges before us in uniting on continued action.”
Translation: If it was up to me, I’d stay out until the district agreed to some real concessions or Hell froze over. Unfortunately, the members realize it isn’t up to me.
The previous week, WEA members had been bullied by union leadership to halt live instruction in opposition to the district’s plan to expand in-person learning before all educators had access to a vaccine.
When it was forced to use administrators to teach the returning second-graders, the district on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction finding the union in breach of contract and forcing the teachers back to the classroom.
In the meantime, both sides reached a tentative agreement that allowed kindergartners through second-graders to return as the district previously planned, but with some additional precautions to protect the teachers’ health.
Teachers voted to ratify the deal, apparently much to the chagrin of Snow and the BEA braintrust.
“The fear of this is understandable, but it is not backed up by our experience,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in what may be the first instance on record of his ever disagreeing with a union. “Our experience has showed we can operate a school safely. We are doing it all over the state of Washington now.”
True enough. And if it’s safe to operate schools, what about restaurants, gyms and other “nonessential” businesses shut down for the second time in less than a year as part of Inslee’s overwrought COVID response?
Reopening them should be a cinch, Jay. You wouldn’t even have to step on any union toes.