The teachers union will keep bargaining until Sept. 3, when they will vote whether or not to strike if no tentative agreement with the district is in place.

Share story

Seattle’s teachers union Monday night authorized a strike vote on Sept. 3 if it hasn’t reached a tentative agreement by then with the school district.

If an agreement is reached in time, the union would hold a ratification vote.

Rich Wood, spokesman for Washington Education Association, said more than 1,500 teachers attended Monday’s meeting, and the potential strike vote was authorized almost unanimously.

Before Sept. 3, union members plan a public rally, picketing, distributing leaflets and other actions, according to a news release.

Dan Jordan, a negotiator for the union, said the plan sends a message to the district to get serious about reaching an agreement. He teaches fifth-graders at Olympic View Elementary School.

“I didn’t join the bargaining team to strike,” he said. “I joined the bargaining team for us to get a contract so we can start school on September 9.”

Negotiations for a new collective-bargaining agreement will resume Tuesday. The two sides have been in discussion since May.

The groups remain far apart on several issues, according to the union.

The district has proposed adding 30 minutes of instructional time to the school day “to support higher standards and state mandates.”

The union, however, says the proposal is a way to “make teachers work more for free.”

And while the district proposes a 7 percent pay increase over the next three years, the union’s bargaining team has asked for 21 percent over the same period.

Any increase would be in addition to a 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.

In the budget passed this spring, state lawmakers boosted school funding statewide by about $1.3 billion over the next two years. Seattle Public Schools will receive a $40 million increase.

“We need the School Board to bring the focus back to improving our schools and addressing the opportunity gap and inequities that hold kids back, including a lack of recess and too much time spent on testing,” Phyllis Campano, the bargaining-team chair and union vice president, said in a news release.

The union also has said it asked for a minimum 45 minutes of recess for elementary-school students.

Both the district and Seattle teachers care deeply about student equity and the opportunity gap, Superintendent Larry Nyland wrote in a letter last week to parents and the district community.

“I am confident we will find common ground to address equity issues to close the achievement gap,” Nyland wrote.

Educators’ contracts expire Aug. 31, nine days before school is scheduled to start.

The union represents about 5,000 school employees — not just teachers, but also instructional assistants, nurses, counselors and school office staff.