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Originally published September 8, 2009 at 4:52 PM | Page modified September 8, 2009 at 7:01 PM

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Defying court order teaches the wrong lesson

The Kent Education Association believes it is teaching the public a lesson by defying a King County court order ruling a teachers strike illegal.

Teachers on strike in the Kent School District are defying a court order requiring them to return to work. Next step ought to be monetary fines against the union for every day that teachers stay away from the classroom.

King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled the strike that began Aug. 27 is illegal.

The court has wide discretion in imposing injunctive relief. Time to use it. Penalties ought to be cast with an eye toward understanding how children have lost out on class time and their families have been left scrambling.

Kent teachers are disrupting the education of children for less-than-urgent issues.

Despite a battered economy and disappearing jobs, Kent teachers are getting a 4.5 percent raise over two years. They had demanded 10 percentThen union negotiators turned to the frequency of meetings and a reduction in class size.

But district negotiators have done the math correctly. School districts across the state are facing steep budget reductions. Kent cannot give raises and also spend $2.7 million to lower class sizes.

Let's be clear. Large class sizes are a problem. Voters approved Initiative 728 in 2000, sending an extra $900 million per biennium to help districts pay for lower class sizes and other educational needs. Despite the current recession, lawmakers in the last legislative session approved $304 million for this purpose.

In addition, a separate fund is tapped by districts to lower class sizes in kindergarten through fourth grade.

No Washington court has ever held that teachers have the right to strike.

This is more about adults when the start of the school year ought to be about kids. A sense of collective responsibility hasn't persuaded teachers to return to work. Fines levied daily against teachers who refuse to return to the classroom might work where pay raises and pleading failed.

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