Six days after suspending a strike against Seattle Public Schools, Seattle teachers met Monday night to vote on a three-year contract.
However, the Seattle Education Association said in a news release Monday night that results will not be announced and certified until 9 on Tuesday morning. The union extended the meeting until 9 p.m. Monday for the vote on the contract, which includes raises and changes in student-staff ratios.
SEA has about 6,000 members, including teachers, office staff, paraeducators, instructional aides, social workers, counselors, and nurses.
SEA members went on strike on what would have been the first day of school, Sept. 7, and voted to suspend the strike on the fifth day, a day after SPS and union leaders came to a tentative agreement. Students started school on Wednesday.
The Seattle School Board still needs to vote on the contract for it to be finalized. If it’s not approved, negotiations will likely start again, but Superintendent Brent Jones – who has a background in human resources – said it’s rare for a board to vote down a contract.
It’s unclear when the board will vote on the contract. The next scheduled board meeting is Sept. 28, and the board could also hold a special meeting before then.
The contract will cost the district about $228 million over three years and add nearly $92 million to the already projected budget shortfall. Questions from board members about how to balance the budget came up during last week’s regular board meeting. Options include dipping into the district’s rainy day funds and using federal pandemic relief dollars.
Under the proposed contract, SPS agreed to raises of 7% for both certificated and classified staff. Originally, the district proposed a 6.5% increase, which included a state-funded 5.5% inflationary adjustment.
In the second year of the contract, members would receive a 4% salary increase for inflation and 3% the following year. If the state funds a higher inflationary adjustment, union members will receive whichever is greater, the tentative agreement says.
SEA was fighting for more manageable caseloads and teacher-to-student ratios in the special education and multilingual programs. The union was able to maintain ratios but increase the number of staff in classrooms to provide more support.
Under the new contract, counselor-to-student ratios will decrease at middle and high schools with the highest needs, said Sarah Prichett, interim superintendent of human resources, during the board meeting. Currently, there is one counselor for every 375 students, and at specific schools that will drop down to 350 students per counselor.
Speech and language therapists will have smaller caseloads so they can work more intensively with students who need the help.
Five nurses will be added in the 2023-24 school year, Prichett said, and .5 social workers at K-8 and middle schools.
When the extra support staff arrives depends on how fast the district can hire, union leadership has said.
Seattle Times reporter Daisy Zavala Magaña contributed to this report.