After seven days without school for thousands of Tacoma students, Gov. Chris Gregoire has stepped up to mediate talks between Tacoma Public Schools and the Tacoma Education Association.
After failing to reach an agreement today, the governor called for school district officials and members of the teachers union to negotiate in her office. Members of both sides filed into her office this afternoon between 2 and 3 p.m.
According to Rich Wood, the spokesman for the union, both sides were close to a settlement when the school district abandoned further negotiations. He told the Tacoma News Tribune, “It threw our team for a loop. They truly believed we were close to settlement. I think that’s still true from our perspective this morning.”
Gov. Gregoire does not have direct oversight over the state’s school districts, however, she has been putting pressure on the two sides to reach an agreement so that Tacoma’s youth can return to school.
Tacoma Public Schools is the third largest school district in the state. Some of the main issues that the school district and teacher’s union are haggling over include pay, class size, and teacher transfers.
The Tacoma Education Association is defying a court order for them to return to work. According to Forbes, Pierce County Superior Court Judge, Bryan Chushcoff, has been considering permitting the school district to replace teachers who strike. The next court hearing is expected to be on Tuesday, but if a settlement can be reached soon, an emergency order to that effect would not be needed.