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District: $90M gap with teachers as deadline looms — UPDATE: Strike!

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UPDATE 9/9/2015 10:30 AM: We found this good-spirited group of educators picketing outside Stevens Elementary Wednesday morning (Image: CHS)

Seattle Education Association members undergoing picket training (Images: SEA)

UPDATE 7:00 PM: The union says negotiations are done for the night. Picket lines begin Wednesday.

UPDATE x2: Here’s an update from SPS:

The district and the teachers’ union have not reached agreement and school will not start on Wednesday, September 9. Please monitor local news media and the Seattle Public School district website for details and possible child care options.

Original post: In 2013, the tentative deal for a 4.5% raise came on a Tuesday and school started the next day. In 2015, the gap is much larger and it appears Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union remain far apart in the final hours before Wednesday’s scheduled first day of school.

In a message posted Tuesday just before noon, the district announced its latest offer is some $90 million below the contract package being fought for by the Seattle Education Association, the union that represents the nearly 4,000 teachers at the city’s public schools.

While agreements have been forged on extending recess to 30 minutes and providing an increase in special education staff, the two sides are far apart on raise proposals. The union continues to seek its original 6% per year over three year schedule of raises. The district has offered 2% this year, 3.2% for the following school year, and 3.75% in the final year of the proposed contract, according to the Seattle Education Association. UPDATE: One important point to clarify in the negotiations is that the raise discussion is about teachers’ “supplemental pay” which comes from the district. One teacher we heard from said that supplemental pay only represents about one quarter of her salary — the rest is controlled by the state. If you were looking at the $62 million and $172 million proposal totals above and scratching your head about what seems like a relatively low total — around $15,500 per teacher under the district’s proposal — now you know.

“We don’t have a tentative agreement, and our strike deadline is almost here,” the group said in its most recent “bargaining update” post.

According to SEA, the Seattle School Board is working to pass a motion Tuesday afternoon “giving the superintendent the power to take us to court and to take other misguided actions – a move that shows the board’s lack of respect for Seattle educators and our kids.”

“It’s disappointing that the school board is grasping at legalistic straws rather than focusing on ways to provide the supports that educators need to be successful with
students,” SEA president Jonathan Knapp said in the statement. “We won’t be scared into abandoning our commitment to winning a fair contract.”

The SEA is posting its updates here. A bargaining team with members from schools and programs across the district is representing SEA at the table. Gary Thomas, a teacher at Garfield High School is the lone Capitol Hill area school representative.

Seattle will run “all-day camps” at community centers in the event of a strike.

UPDATE 4:58 PM: City Council member and District 3 candidate Kshama Sawant has posted a letter to the Seattle School Board “supporting the right of educators to strike” and a message in support of the teachers union:

Educators and students have been neglected by the district while the state legislature has been held in contempt of court for failing to adequately fund education. Class sizes remain unmanageably large, and teachers have not seen a cost of living adjustment from Olympia in six years. Across the country education is under attack from charter schools, over-testing, the Common Core, union-busting legislation, and court cases that could strip public sector workers of basic union rights. It’s time to change this. I applaud the courage of the SEA members standing up for students and quality schools.

Sawant’s District 3 opponent Pamela Banks has not yet taken a public position on the issue.

UPDATE 9/9/2015 7:40 AM: According to the latest SEA bargaining update, pickets are planned for every school including Capitol Hill’s elementary schools at Lowell (11th and Mercer) and Stevens (19th and Galer), NOVA and the World School at Meany near 19th and Thomas, as well as Garfield High in the CD:

Picket lines will begin at 8:30 am Wednesday at every school. We need to have a solid show of strength and unity. That means ALL SEA members are expected to picket at their work locations. Your picket captain will provide a picket schedule. Wear comfortable clothes.



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4 thoughts on “District: $90M gap with teachers as deadline looms — UPDATE: Strike!

  1. I would like to point out that the school board is proposing/planning to extend the school day by a half hour starting next year (16/17). This is a big reason for the pay increase. I don’t feel that this fact is being adequately reported on.

  2. Good for the teachers union. Fund our schools and support our teachers! They are not paid nearly enough and we need to make them a priority. Budgets reflect values, and we’re not valuing our teachers like we should.