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School board sues to end teacher strike


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SEATTLE, Washington (Reuters) -- A local school board Monday asked a Washington judge to order striking teachers back into classrooms to end a six-week strike that already ranks as the longest in state history.

The school board of Marysville, Washington asked Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese to declare the 42-day-old strike illegal for interfering with the district's responsibility to educate its 11,200 students.

A group of parents called "Tired of the Strike" filed a similar complaint last week.

Cash-strapped school districts in Washington and Oregon, as well as other U.S. states, have seen their teachers go on strike in the past year to demand better pay and benefits.

"We feel after meeting yesterday that we needed to join our parents and ask for an injunction to get our students back in school, our teachers back in school," said Marysville School District Superintendent Linda Whitehead.

Elaine Hanson, a representative for the teachers' union, called the board's actions an "outrage."

"This is an insult to the teachers," Hanson told reporters on local television.

The teachers, represented by their union, the Washington Education Association, say that they have seen their compensation cut over the last year as the school district reduced benefits and that the district was looking to make further cuts.

Washington Governor Gary Locke, who began a 10-day visit to China over the weekend, has also stepped into the dispute, meeting with both sides and threatening to take action if schoolrooms did not reopen Monday.

As with most teacher strikes, students and teachers will have to pick up the lost schooling days by cutting into vacations, said district officials.

Parents of the students in Marysville, 35 miles north of Seattle, are split on the issue, with some rallying against the school board while others have backed the strike.

Last spring, teachers in Portland, Oregon worked for 10 days without pay in order to help the local school district maintain a full school year. They had threatened to strike earlier over pay and benefits.



Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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