During Gov. Chris Gregoire’s press conference Thursday, announcing a special legislative session will start in November, she was asked several education-related questions.
Fellow Bellingham Herald reporter Jared Paben just listened to the press conference and provided me with a transcript of what she said about the Tacoma teacher strike and the legality of teacher strikes.
Please note these questions were not asked back-to-back; Jared grouped them for ease of reading.
Question: “After what you went through last night with the striking teachers, how worried are you about passing some of those cuts on to school districts and whether they can handle it?
Gregoire: I’ve met with education leaders. I know how difficult the problem is. But I’ve been very honest with them and I was last night during our negotiations. I can’t take it off the table. I’ll tell you the social services cuts are painful for me internally. It hurts my heart. Our education cuts hurts my head because it’s the wrong thing to do in a recession. You don’t want to cut the opportunities for a kid during a recession. They need that more than ever. You don’t want to cut off your economic future during a recession, and that’s what we’re having to do. But frankly I don’t have an alternative for you today, and hence, I had to tell them it’s all on the table. Now people will talk about what led to the strike. Those districts are going through difficult times and it’s very challenging, and so frankly I’m surprised there was only one.”
Question: As you put this in your review mirror what do you think about the legality of teacher strikes as a former A-G. Do you agree with the current A-G’s opinion that they’re illegal?
Gregoire: “It’s never been resolved. I wrote an opinion when I was A-G and made it very clear it’s never been resolved. One of the first things that happened in the Tacoma strike was the district took it to the court. The court didn’t stop it. The court set a date out to the 27th. I can’t wait. I got to get those kids in class. But let me also tell you about how I feel having been through what I was last night and having been in contact with them daily, multiple times a day. You get done with a strike and you have left yourselves with a lack of trust, with anger. You have to go through a healing process, if you will. That work environment has got to come back where there’s trust and respect. You don’t want that to lop over into that the classroom. So I will tell you now my experience as governor, whatever the legality of it is, really, at the end of the day, what’s best for the kids is to have the districts and teachers solve it together. And then get over it, heal and work together. And I can tell you the difference from 3 o’clock when I first met with them yesterday to 10 o’clock, that process had begun. As I said to them at the outset, there are not enough ‘I’s to dot or ‘T’s to cross so that you can guarantee without trust. Trust has to be a part here. Good faith has to be a part. Respect has to be a part. And you have to keep your eye on the ball, which is our our children. And if you’re not happy because of this, it will flow into that classroom. Let’s get this done tonight. Lets walk out of here, begin the healing process, restore some respect and trust. That is exactly what happened. That’s far better than fining teachers and putting them in jail.
Question: … Is there no role for fines … should the Legislature put some kind of finds in law?
Gregoire: That’s the court’s job. If the court finds and orders back, then the court has its option of fining the teachers. But I’m telling you, if that’s how to solve these strikes, there will be an adverse consequence. And I don’t think that’s healthy in a school district. What’s healthy is what we did last night. They walked out of here. They haven’t healed. They don’t have carte blanche trust of each other. But I tell you it’s a whole lot better at 10 o’clock than it was at 3 o’clock. And the process has begun.
The special legislative session will start in November, soon after the next state revenue forecast, so that legislators can start working on budget issues – state agencies have already been asked to map-out 5 and 10 percent cuts. She said she wants the focus of the regular session in 2012 to be on job creation.