The Seattle teachers strike will go on at least another day.
Outside Seattle Public Schools’ headquarters Monday with a picket sign in hand, Kris McBride, an academic dean at Garfield High School, said that before voting to go on strike, teachers had to weigh the strike’s effects on students and parents against the district’s inadequate contract proposals.
The decision wasn’t made easily, she said.
But McBride and her colleague Corey Louviere said that during the recession, teacher pay and school funding took a back seat to other important things.
- Seattle parents share how they are handling their kids being out of school
- Pay varies widely for Washington state teachers
- In 1985, Seattle teachers went on strike for 19 days
- When courts have weighed in on teacher strikes, districts have usually won
“We sacrificed, as we always do, and now we are saying ‘these things are what we need,’ ” said Louviere.
Most Read Local Stories
- Coronavirus daily news updates, July 7: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world
- Seattle City Council passes 'JumpStart' tax on high salaries paid by big businesses
- Whale reportedly hit by Washington state ferry near Mukilteo WATCH
- Driver accused of hitting Seattle protesters, killing one, held on $1.2 million bail
- Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, has died, report says
As other Seattle teachers picketed outside high schools, McBride and Louviere were among those who marched outside the Sodo building, where the district announced Monday afternoon that school would be canceled Tuesday for the fifth day.
District spokeswoman Stacy Howard said the union’s bargaining team presented a new idea to the district’s team late Sunday night, but didn’t elaborate.
Negotiations continued through the night and into Tuesday morning, according to the Seattle Education Association. More protests are planned for Tuesday, as teachers and other school employees continue to say they want more than the district is offering — on pay, and testing, the caseload of specialists and the length of the school day.
The district continues to say it can’t afford to meet the union’s proposals, although it still doesn’t intend to take legal action to try to force teachers and other school employees back to work.
Meanwhile, many parents continue to scramble to find care for their children.
“Everybody is in this holding pattern,” Howard said. “Everybody is impacted.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray met Monday with Superintendent Larry Nyland and Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp and afterward said he urged both sides to reach a fair agreement. Later, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring this week “Seattle Educators Week” in support of the union and requesting the district and union “help bring the strike to a speedy conclusion.”
The resolution also requested that Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Legislature work to raise education spending as required by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary school-funding decision.
According to the union, nearly 2,000 parents and supporters have emailed the Seattle School Board asking for the two sides to reach a contact agreement.
When school starts for the district’s 53,000 students will depend not only on the two sides reaching an agreement, but also what time that happens. Howard stressed that even after an agreement is reached, school might not start the next day because contracted workers, such as bus drivers, might not be ready.
While the specifics of the union’s new idea were not disclosed, the union did announce what it proposed Sunday on pay. It asked for a 9.75 percent raise over two years, in addition to a 4.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment offered by the state — although because neither raise is applied to teachers’ full salary, the effective increase is lower.
The district’s most recent counteroffer was a 9.2 percent raise over three years, in addition to the cost-of-living adjustment.
The district said it increased its pay proposal to compensate teachers for an additional 20 minutes of instructional time for students starting in the third year of the contract. The union, however, has said it would rather study the effects of extending the workday rather than implementing the increase in the third year.
It’s not yet clear what might have changed in the negotiations since Sunday.
It is clear that the district has more money to work with than it has in years past, as districts across the state received a big infusion of dollars as part of the state budget passed this spring.
Seattle Public Schools received about $37 million a year in new money as part of that budget.
The district may spend about $20 million of that however it chooses, though the Legislature earmarked that amount for materials, supplies and operating costs.
The other $17 million comes with strings attached, which include the state-required cost-of-living increases, pension commitments, hiring teachers to reduce K-3 class sizes and other mandates.
The district says that $9 million is really available, saying the rest, for a variety of reasons, is already spoken for.
But the union says district officials have more discretion with those funds than they’re acknowledging. They also say the district can tap reserves and, as part of the complicated formulas that go into school spending, have more local levy money than in the past, too.
Among the state’s largest 20 districts, Seattle teachers are among the highest paid, with a range between $44,372 and $79,788, depending on level of experience and education.
But they aren’t at the top, even though Seattle’s cost of living is high and rising.
Teachers in the Everett School District earn more, for example. And Everett officials and their teachers union recently agreed on raises of about 7.75 percent over the next three years, not counting the state cost-of-living adjustment — a 2.25 percent raise this school year, a 2.5 percent raise the next year and a 3 percent raise in 2017-18.
Depending on experience and qualifications, the range of teacher pay in Everett will be between $45,151 and $87,773 this year.
Other area districts have just finished negotiating contracts, too, including in Shoreline, where teacher pay will go up by 12.3 to 15.3 percent over a three-year contract. The district was at the very bottom in terms of compensation when compared with its neighbors, said David Guthrie, president of the Shoreline Education Association.
In Auburn, the school district was to vote Monday night on whether to approve a three-year contract that would increase pay by 3 percent each year, not including the state cost-of-living increase.
Renton has approved a one-year contract that increases teacher pay by 3 percent, not counting the state increase.
Outside the district headquarters, McBride and Louviere said they continued to think about their students, and they think striking is in the best interests of both students and teachers.
“What kind of lesson are you teaching when you just support the status quo?” Louviere asked.