Contract negotiations will resume Saturday between Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers union after the first three days of a strike. The district hasn’t yet said whether school will be canceled Monday.
Contract negotiations between Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers union will resume Saturday following the third day of a strike that could extend into next week.
Both sides agreed Friday afternoon to continue talks for the first time since the strike began Wednesday. The union said it had been waiting for new ideas and concepts from the district, and got those Friday, said Washington Education Association spokesman Rich Wood.
The district hasn’t yet announced whether classes for its 53,000 students will be canceled Monday for a fourth day.
Where the two sides stand
Here are some of the major issues for each side of the teachers strike, as of Friday.
Union: 10.5 percent over two years, in addition to state-provided cost-of-living adjustment
District: 9.2 percent over three years, in addition to state-provided cost-of-living adjustment
LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY
Union: No additional time without additional pay
District: Additional 20 minutes of the school day, beginning in third year of contract
Union: Says both sides have moved closer but haven’t reached agreement
District: Says both sides have reached agreement
RECESS FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
Union: Agreed: Guaranteed 30 minutes per day
District: Agreed: Guaranteed 30 minutes per day
OTHER ISSUES: Teacher evaluations, workload relief for school psychologists and other specialists.
Sources: Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Education Association
“We’re hopeful,” said district spokeswoman Stacy Howard. “We don’t want to be in this for the long haul.”
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The strike is costing the district $100,000 a day, she said, for operations expenses as well as security and outside support for negotiations.
For the past three days, the two bargaining teams have been talking only to state mediators.
Pay increases remain a significant unresolved issue. As of Friday, the union has proposed a 10.5 percent increase for teachers over two years, in addition to a cost-of-living adjustment that state lawmakers earlier approved for teachers across the state. The district’s proposal is 9.2 percent over three years, in addition to the same adjustment.
The union wants to make up the ground teachers lost during six years without cost-of-living raises from the state. They have received raises from the district over that period, although their health-insurance costs have gone up, too. Last school year, teacher pay in Seattle ranged from $44,372 for a brand-new teacher to $86,000 for those with doctorates and 15 years of experience.
Bargaining teams will also be negotiating the length of the school day. The district’s last proposal was to add 20 minutes beginning in the 2017-18 school year, while the union remained opposed to any increase without additional pay for that time.
Though the School Board has authorized Superintendent Larry Nyland to take legal action to try to force teachers and other school employees back to work, Howard said Friday the district still has no plans to do so.
The union represents office secretaries and classroom assistants as well as teachers; its total membership is about 5,000 people.
If the strike continues on Monday, the city has said it is prepared to provide extra child-care services.
Camps will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 21 community centers around Seattle, according to a city news release. They’re available for kindergarten through sixth-grade students, and families won’t be charged.
Nearly all union members picketed outside their schools Wednesday and Thursday, Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp said. But on Friday, in honor of the 9/11 anniversary, members instead participated in community service projects.
Also on Friday, about 200 students from high schools across Seattle gathered on the University of Washington campus for a read-in to show support for their teachers.
“We’re hoping that teachers can get this resolved,” incoming senior Ali Keith said between pages of Sigmund Freud. “I can’t speak to pay level, but in general, they’re not getting the respect that they deserve.”
Between Frisbee games and chants, the high-schoolers read silently.
Nathan Hale High School senior Devon Smith, one of a handful of students that helped organize the event, said she’s spent the week fielding texts from parents scrambling to find baby-sitters. She also walked picket lines to show support for her teachers.
And though she said some of her peers have treated this week like an extended summer vacation, she’s ready to get back to class.
Knapp said if the two sides reach a tentative agreement over the weekend, the contract would first go to the union’s board of directors, which would then make a recommendation to the union’s representative assembly.
If both those groups recommend the contract, the union will suspend the strike, then eventually put the tentative agreement to a vote of all members.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm that we are going to prevail and get what we need for kids,” Knapp said.
KIRO TV: Raw video of Seattle Public Schools press conference