Following a failure of the Seattle district to reach a new contract with its teachers’ union, approximately 5,000 Seattle educators walked off the job on the first day of the school year today.
The action seems likely to throw the 52,000-student district into further confusion, coming on the heels of a recent state Supreme Court decision declaring charter schools in the state unconstitutional.
The main point of disagreement in the contractual dispute appears to be wages. The Seattle Education Association, according to the Associated Press, wants a 10.5 percent increase over two years (and earlier had asked for an 18 percent raise over a three-year period); the district is offering about 9 percent over three years.
The union says the figures reflect the fact that it has gone six years without state-provided cost-of-living adjustments or increases for health-care funding. (Washington state has a statewide salary schedule and adjustments, which are supplemented via local negotiations.) In point of fact, the Seattle situation seems partly the collateral damage from a bruising funding battle in the state. As we’ve reported, as part of a school funding lawsuit, the state Supreme Court has demanded that the legislature pony up more funding for schools. The state did appropriate $1 billion more for the 2013-15 biennium, but that hasn’t been enough to satisfy funding advocates.
Salaries aren’t the only concerns, however. District and union remain fair apart on issues like teacher-evaluation procedures, testing, and instructional time. The district, for instance, wants to extend the instructional day by a half an hour, but the union says that amounts to wanting teachers to work for free.
The district is maintaining a list of issues it says have been settled and those still being negotiated.
Striking is not legally protected in Washington state and the district school board has authorized legal action against the teachers.
Photo: Teachers at West Seattle Elementary School begin walking a picket line on Wednesday in Seattle after last-minute negotiations over wages and other issues failed to avert a strike in Washington state’s largest school district.—Elaine Thompson/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.