Utah teachers will strike Tuesday

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    By Irinna Schwenke

    For Utah public school students, Christmas vacation may come sooner than expected.

    Phyllis Sorensen, president of the Utah Education Association held a press conference Thursday, Nov. 31, to announce a statewide teacher’s strike for Tuesday, Dec. 5.

    The day will be spent educating the community about the needs of Utah students. Each district will meet in designated community areas to increase awareness, Sorensen said.

    The job action comes as a response to the frustration Utah educators have with the state’s legislative task force.

    Following the legislative session last spring, Granite School District teachers protested for increased educational funds, said Debbie White, president of the Granite Education Association.

    In response, the task force was formed to develop a long-term funding plan to be presented to the Education Interim Committee at the end of November, White said.

    The task force’s five-point plan was presented to the Education Interim Committee Thursday morning.

    The plan addresses giving $30.6 million for new textbooks, an additional 10 million for the construction of new schools and using fees from waste companies for education, said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.

    “I saw some good effort from the task force, but we need more. They made progress, but it didn’t amount to improving the quality of education in the long term,” Sorensen said.

    All school districts, except for Granite are expected to participate in the strike, Sorensen said.

    “The job action is giving teachers the means to let their voices be heard in a united fashion,” she said.

    The Granite School District will be in session on Tuesday, Dec. 5, because of the action they took earlier this year, White said.

    “Our teachers felt they made their statement at the legislative session last year. We will not be striking with the rest of the state on Dec. 5,” White said.

    The task force came up with some interesting ideas, but these ideas need to be built upon, White said.

    “I think this is the right thing to do at the right time,” said Wendy Bromley, president of the Jordan Education Association.

    The Jordan School District will be participating in the statewide strike.

    Tuesday, teachers and district officials will pass out literature on education funding on street corners, Bromley said.

    “We’re tired of being lobbyist. The Jordan district has some of the highest class sizes in the state, and we’re tired of the burdens being placed on our teachers,” she said.

    Teachers in the Jordan School District are supportive of the job action, Bromley said.

    Pam Bunderson, a fifth grade teacher at Ridge Crest Elementary School, Salt Lake County said the UEA made the correct decision.

    “The job action has a purpose. Teachers need to be in the classroom not on Capitol Hill year after year protesting for more money,” Bunderson said.

    The inconsistency of the task force was one frustration Bunderson noticed.

    “They cancelled several meetings, not all members were present at all the meetings, and they did little until the week the report was due,” she said.

    Bunderson said one of her students summed up the situation best.

    It’s like a student who reads two chapters of a book the night before the book report is due, Bunderson’s student said.

    “We’re not saying thank you — we’re taking a job action. We need the Legislature’s attention because Utah students deserve more,” Bunderson said.

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