TACOMA, Wash. -- Hundreds of Tacoma teachers are picketing Tuesday at Lincoln High School, passing a marquee that reads "School cancelled today."
They appeared uplifted as they sought to carry their momentum from their vote Monday night to strike over a breakdown in contract talks with Tacoma Public Schools.
"I got so many texts from parents asking how can we support you?" said Nathan Bowling, 31, who teaches history in Lincoln High School's Lincoln Center.
Yet many of the teachers expressed mixed feelings, saying they wanted to be in the classroom Tuesday with their students.
"I don't want to be out here," said Guy Cooper, a third-grade teacher at Mary Lyon Elementary School. "I've got 25 kids who should be in school right now."
The students won't be in class again Wednesday, either. Tacoma schools spokesman Dan Voelpel announced Tuesday that schools would be closed a second day.
Cooper has taught in Tacoma schools for 13 years, most recently at McKinley Elementary School. That campus was closed last year to help the district balance its budget.
He said he understood the district's continuing budget troubles, but he supported the strike out of concerns that the administration's proposed language for a new contract would result in teachers being shuffled among different schools for arbitrary reasons.
It's not clear whether parents understand the teachers' position.
Some drivers honked their horns in support of the Lincoln picketers. Two others yelled at the teachers to "get back to work." One of them used profanity in swearing at the picket line.
"I'm pretty furious about this," said Brooke Goodwin, 29, a single mom from Puyallup, Wash., whose 6-year-old daughter attends Lyon Elementary. "You'd think teachers would have more class than this."
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Goodwin works at Allenmore Hospital in Tacoma, and she learned about the strike Monday when she picked up her daughter from a YMCA day camp at Lyon. Normally, her 3-year-old daughter attends the day camp, too.
Tuesday, she tried to drop off both of them at a central YMCA day camp but couldn't leaver her younger daughter at the site. YMCA's Morgan Family Branch doesn't have the same license to care for preschool children. Goodwin said she would take her younger child to work with her and try to keep her occupied by playing a movie in her office.
Tacoma's YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs expanded their day-care programs to help parents cope with the strike. Officials at both organizations said they have seen relatively light turnout, suggesting that parents are making other arrangements.
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Picketing teachers have been stressing that they're not striking for better pay or benefits. They've watched the district move administrators for reasons the teachers felt were unclear, and they fear they would suffer similar shuffling if they replace contract language that favors seniority with more subjective criteria.
"We know seniority has flaws," Bowling said. "But it's transparent and whatever replaces it has to be equally transparent because of the lack of trust we have for the administration."
Bowling said he wants to be in the classroom. "I just bought a house; I don't want to be on strike."
School psychologist Grace Clark said she was reluctant to support a strike this summer. She initially sympathized with administrators who faced difficult choices in balancing the district's budget, but she lost some of that feeling when she saw the district hire a contract negotiator instead using that money for education.
"I left very depressed last night" after the strike vote, said Clark, 41. "I'm not expecting to get a raise. I would understand if the district was willing to give more."
Another teacher echoed Bowling's fear about administrators using new contract language to shuffle educators unfairly.
"A teacher can work five, 10, 15 years in a building and a new principal can come in and develop their favorites," said second-grade teacher Suzanne Symonoski, 49.
"I just felt the district wasn't willing to bargain at all," she said.
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