PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Picketing may interrupt reading and writing in the first days of school in 3 Southwest Washington districts this week as teachers demand new contracts.

The Camas Education Association said their 450 teachers will strike beginning Monday, the scheduled first day of the 2023-24 school year, because the “Camas School District was unwilling to invest in students,” a late Sunday afternoon release said.

Teachers in Battle Ground and Evergreen may also strike on Wednesday, their scheduled first day of the new school year. Negotiations in both districts continue.

“Bargaining broke off for the day today (Sunday, Aug. 27) after the district refused to make commitments to reasonable class sizes or equitable funding for music, PE, and libraries,” the Camas Education Association said. “The district is instead stockpiling nearly 1 out of every 5 student dollars, amassing $15 million in the bank while student needs are unmet.”

A meeting with Camas educators is set for Sunday night to “make final preparations for picketing in the morning,” they said.

Officials with the Camas School District did not respond to a request for comment from KOIN 6 News.

Camas Education Association Vice President Michael Sanchez, August 27, 2023 (KOIN)
Camas Education Association Vice President Michael Sanchez, August 27, 2023 (KOIN)

Earlier Sunday, negotiators seemed hopeful a deal was near.

“We want to get this done and we want to get it done today,” said Michael Sanchez, the vice president of the Camas Education Assocation.

But Sanchez was clear what would happen if no deal was made.

“Our members will go on strike and we won’t start the first day of school. I want to reiterate, this is not something we want to have happen,” Sanchez said. “We know the unrest that can cause in the community, the uncertainty, the fear. What we really want to have happen is for us to be at our schools Monday morning, welcoming all our kids back from a great summer and getting to the work that we need to do.”

At a Sunday night meeting, members of the CEA met to discuss why they went on strike.

Camas teachers rally for a new contract, August 2023 (KOIN)
Camas teachers rally for a new contract, August 2023 (KOIN)

“I shouldn’t feel the need to have to go fund my classroom in a in a district that is stockpiling money that money should be used for student resources now,” said Shannon Cotton.

Mark Gardner said they aren’t greedy teachers looking for a raise. “We were focused on using our contracts to leverage better learning conditions for our students, especially our most vulnerable students.”

Sanchez said they are clearly aware parents “are probably really frustrated. What I say to them is that we hear you. We’re frustrated, too. We want to get our kids the best educational experience that they can, And the district has to work with us on getting to that place.”

More negotiations

There are 30,000 students in Clark County’s Evergreen District, and nearly 12,000 in the Battle Ground district. Each of those districts is scheduled to begin classes on Wednesday.

Bargaining in Battle Ground finished around 4 p.m. Sunday and will resume Monday morning, officials told KOIN 6 News. A general membership meeting is set for Tuesday evening to “either ratify a tentative agreement or vote to strike,” they said.

Officials with the Battle Ground School District told KOIN 6 News they would keep negotiating.

“Our latest proposal would decrease class sizes and employee caseloads, which are already among the lowest in Clark County; increase entry-level pay; and boost total compensation 16.75% above current levels over the next three years,” the district said in a Sunday statement.

Evergreen officials are also expected to meet again Monday to work on a deal.