On Wednesday morning, Seattle Public Schools educators went on strike for the first time since 2015. The announcement left some parents scrambling for child care options. Here’s what you need to know about the strike.

Seattle teachers strike, delaying first day of school

Why are teachers on strike?

The Seattle Education Association says it is focused on securing higher pay for staff like office professionals, instructional assistants and other classified employees, as well as general education instructors and substitute teachers. It also wants manageable staff-to-student ratios, especially for multilingual learners and students who have individualized education plans and receive special education services. 

Striking Seattle teachers, aides explain why they are on the picket line

It is unclear which terms are sticking points between what SEA members are asking for and what SPS is offering. Negotiations have been going on for months. 

You can read the SEA proposals online at washingtonea.org. You can read the SPS offers online at seattleschools.org under “Collective Bargaining Updates.”

What is the status of the negotiations?

An SEA representative said negotiations went on until late into Tuesday evening; a strike was called at midnight. Negotiations resumed on Wednesday.

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Where can I get lunch for my kid?

Students and families can pick up a free sack lunch between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., at one of 40 sites listed on the website www.seattleschools.org/news/family-resources-and-faq/

Is child care available?

The district is working with various agencies in the city to help families find temporary child care. Families who are enrolled in before- or after-school care should contact those providers to see if they have capacity for full- or part-day care. 

The district is updating a list of providers online at https://www.seattleschools.org/resources/childcare. If a family is struggling to find care, call 800-446-1114. The district also cautions on its website that there is a local and national shortage of child care providers and that finding care may be difficult. The district instructs families who need help paying for child care to contact their provider or call the city’s Department of Education and Early Learning at 206-386-1050 for help finding subsidized care. 

Several area Boys & Girls Clubs are offering free, full-day programming from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for families who are enrolled there. If the strike extends beyond Friday, a fee may be introduced. Sites offering this program include: Wallingford (1310 N. 45th St., 206-436-1930), Smilow Rainier Vista  (4520 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., 206-436-1890), Ballard (1767 N.W. 64th St., 206-436-1870), Rotary (201 19th Ave., 206-436-1880), View Ridge (4710 N.E. 70th St., 206-523-8447), North Seattle (8635 Fremont Ave. N., 206-436-1850). 

Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Associated Recreation Council’s School-Age Care program will offer programming this week from 2:30-6 p.m. for registered participants. Participating centers include Alki, Ballard, Bitter Lake, Genesee Hill, Jefferson, John Muir Elementary, John Rogers Elementary, Lafayette Elementary, Magnolia, McGilvra Elementary, Northgate, Rainier Beach, Thornton Creek Elementary, Wedgwood Elementary and Van Asselt. For more information and updates, call 206-684-4203.

Starting Monday, if the strike is still going, the Parks Department and ARC will offer free recreational programs and activities at eight community centers for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Families must register first. Registration opens Thursday at www.seattle.gov/parks.

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How are after-school activities being affected?

The district says that after-school high school athletics, including practices and games, are expected to continue as scheduled. Middle school athletic programs are postponed. The district did not specify the status of other extracurricular clubs like visual and performing arts, academic programs, intramural sports, etc. 

Once the negotiators reach an agreement, do members need to vote to approve it?

When the parties conclude bargaining, members of the teachers union will get to see the tentative agreement immediately, according to a union Q&A. The union’s bylaws give members at least 72 hours to review the agreement before voting, but they can choose to waive that waiting period and vote immediately. 

Missed school days will have to be made up to ensure students are offered the state-required 180 days of school. According to the SPS calendar, the last day of school is June 26. 

Is it legal for teachers to strike?

Technically, public employees do not have a legally protected right to strike in Washington state. But there are no specified penalties for striking unless a judge orders them. Districts can and have taken teachers unions to court over the legality of striking, and won.