Seattle educators voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to strike if the teachers union and school district fail to reach a contract agreement, which could delay the start of school next week.
Seattle educators voted unanimously Thursday night to strike if the teachers union and school district fail to reach a contract agreement, which could delay the start of school next week.
School is scheduled to start Wednesday. The strike would start that day.
Members took a voice vote, with more than 2,000 people in attendance yelling “aye” when asked if they should take a vote. The room was silent when union leaders asked for anyone opposed.
Attendees chanted “S-E-A” and “You have power” inside Benaroya Hall.
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“This should let the School Board know we are serious, and they need to get serious,” Seattle Education Association vice president and bargaining team chair Phyllis Campano said.
The two sides have met more than 20 times since May but still remain far apart on several issues. Contract negotiations ended Tuesday afternoon.
The Seattle Education Association (SEA) bargaining team proposed a raise of 18 percent over three years, down from the originally proposed 21 percent over the same time period. The increase would be in addition to the state-authorized 3 percent cost-of-living raise to K-12 employees over the next two years, plus an additional temporary 1.8 percent increase that expires in 2017.
The district has proposed an 8.2 percent increase over the same time period, not including the cost-of-living raise. This increase would be “in exchange for more instructional time with students,” Superintendent Larry Nyland wrote in a letter to the district community. The union has said the district’s proposal to add 30 minutes to the school day is unrealistic and would make teachers work more for free.
Teachers’ salaries vary widely, based on a number of factors. A Seattle first-year teacher’s base salary, plus local pay, was $44,372 last year, according to salary data. Total pay for a veteran teacher with a master’s degree, in his or her 15th year in the classroom and with 45 additional credits, was $79,788.
In the budget passed this spring, state lawmakers boosted school funding across the state by about $1.3 billion over the next two years. Seattle Public Schools will receive a $40 million increase.
“…Their [Seattle Public Schools’] wage proposal looks very similar to what was offered in the last contract two years ago, when funding from the state was less robust and we were still feeling the effects of the Great Recession,” the Seattle Education Association wrote in a member newsletter.
The two sides haven’t come to an agreement on children’s recess time, which varies across the district. The teachers’ bargaining committee originally proposed a guaranteed 45 minutes of recess but provided a new proposal of 30 to 45 minutes of guaranteed recess during negotiations Monday morning.
Bailey Gatzert Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kristen Spada said that in her 20 years of teaching she has never seen anything similar to what happened Thursday night.
“It’s been a buildup all year,” Spada said. “It’s sad. I would rather not go on strike, but we need a good contract.”
SEA and the district are scheduled to meet Friday with a state mediator.
“Our goal is a contract which honors, respects and pays our educators and provides more instructional time for all students, including those children who desperately need more time with outstanding teachers in order to succeed,” Nyland said Thursday night.
Raw video: Watch the voteSeattle educators have voted to strike on Sept. 9 if an agreement isn't reached. (Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times)
The district said Thursday night it is working with the city of Seattle on child-care options if the start of school is delayed. Athletic events will operate as scheduled.
South Whidbey teachers went on strike Thursday and picketed in front of South Whidbey High School to show support for their bargaining team. School is scheduled to start Sept. 8.
The Pasco School District canceled school for Friday, the fourth day of a strike after the two sides failed to reach a contract agreement.
The Spokane school district and union reached a tentative agreement on Thursday, averting a strike planned for Friday.
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 3, 2015, was corrected Aug. 4, 2015. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount the school budget is being increased. Lawmakers boosted school funding across the state by about $1.3 billion over the next two years.