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Tacoma Paraeducators plan ‘no confidence’ vote amid stalled talks

The following is from the Tacoma Federation of Paraeducators (TFP), AFT Local 461:

TACOMA (Sept. 9, 2020) — After months of negotiations, the Tacoma Federation of Paraeducators plan to vote “no confidence” in Tacoma Public Schools’ Superintendent Carla Santorno on Friday if negotiations do not move forward. On June 1, layoffs, transfers and reduction in hours notices were received by more than 400 Tacoma Public School Paraeducators, affected 80 percent of union members, drastically reducing service to Tacoma students as classes begin today.

“Tacoma Public Schools needs to put the needs of its students and the community first, especially the students who need extra support who have individualized learning plans,” said Glory Tichy, President of Tacoma Federation of Paraeducators. “These students have a right to education under our state constitution and federal law. Our union has been in negotiations throughout the summer and have reached a point that we have lost confidence in the district’s ability to come to a fair resolution that puts the needs of our students first. If we do not make progress in negotiation on Friday, we will take a vote of ‘no confidence’.”

One-on-one paraeducators play an important role in providing support for special education students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 plans. These plans are governed by state and federal laws and regulations and must be adhered to. The McCleary decision by the Washington State Supreme Court of 2012 held up the state constitutional obligation to provide basic education to all public school students, including those with special needs.

TFP/AFT 461 members Jazmyn Daniels, Elizabeth Douglas and Emmett Johnson.

Therese Belle, a special education one-on-one paraeducator with Tacoma Public Schools, has been unable to give her student the support he needs to be successful since the closures last school year and has yet to be given instruction on the role she will play with her student this fall.

“I feel extremely disrespected by the district because of the way we’ve been treated,” Belle said. “Since March I have not been able to support my student. I was one of the only paraeducators allowed to contact my student in the spring. I was only allowed to have a 15-minute call with him twice a week.”

When asked about her confidence in Tacoma Public School’s ability to provide the education her student and other students like him need she stated, “The moral thing for the district to do is to give the special education kids what they need to learn. These students are overlooked by the district and they have a right to basic education just like everyone else. Paraeducators do not do this work for the money, but we deserve respect and the ability to serve our students. If the district doesn’t move forward in negotiations, I plan on voting no confidence in Tacoma Public School leadership.”

Tacoma Federation of Paraeducators and Tacoma Public Schools continue negotiations on the morning of Friday, Sept. 11. If negotiations fail to move forward, the union will hold a “no confidence” vote following the bargaining session.

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