Seattle school teachers plan 'picket party'

by: David Ham Updated:

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SEATTLE —

A week before the first day of school, Seattle public school teachers are without a contract and are planning a rally outside Eckstein Middle School on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Teachers plan to rally in front of the school with signs demanding a fair contract.

"The quality of staff is incredible and it's not recognized adequately with the district and I think that needs to stop," said Carolyn Kelley, who works as an occupational therapist for the district.

On Monday, the Seattle Education Association (SEA) rejected the district's latest contract offer.

When teachers delivered signed cards to Superintendent Jose Banda's office on Tuesday morning, he told them, "We remain committed to the bargaining process to be able to work with us. We value our teachers. We value our staff. We want to be able to get school started on time. I think we owe that to our children. We owe that to our parents. We owe that to our community."

Teachers could vote to strike before the first day of school.

The SEA is planning a meeting on Sept. 3, when it will either ratify a new contract or vote on further action which can include a strike.

>>> Natasha Chen is looking into the timing of the vote and why the SEA waiting until the day before school is scheduled to start. She is also compiling options for parents looking into alternative childcare. Watch her full report Wednesday at 5 p.m. on KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.

In anticipation of a possible strike, Seattle Public Schools sent out letters and emailed parents on Tuesday.

It said:

"Families,

"The Seattle Education Association (SEA), which represents teachers, rejected the district's latest contract proposal. They plan to meet again on September 3 to vote on whatever the proposal is at that time.

"With the start of school on September 4, we are encouraging families to develop back up plans should Seattle Public Schools not open on time.

"We realize the impact a labor strike would have on our families. We are working with child care providers and the City of Seattle to develop options for your students in the event school is not in session on September 4. Those resources, along with other information, will be posted tomorrow at www.seattleschools.org. We will send you additional messages as new information is available.

"Again, we are working to reach an agreement with teachers, but it is possible that school will not start on September 4. Please visit www.seattleschools.org for additional information.

"Thank you for your patience and support during this time."

The 5,000-member union said the major sticking points of the negotiations include:

"The Seattle School Board's demand to make elementary teachers work longer every day (after students have gone home) and take a pay cut. If the school day is going to be longer, Seattle educators believe the board should restore elementary art, music, P.E. and other classes that were cut nearly 40 years ago.

"The Seattle School Board's refusal to reduce caseloads for therapists, psychologists, and other education staff associates. SEA members want reduced caseloads so they can provide the individual attention and specialized support all students need to receive a quality education.

"The Seattle School Board insists on outdated elements of the local teacher evaluation system that unnecessarily duplicates and conflicts with the state's new teacher evaluation requirements and distracts from classroom learning. Seattle teachers want to focus on implementing the new state-mandated evaluation system and upcoming changes in academic standards.

"The Seattle School Board refuses to seriously address the need to pay teachers and other educators competitively. After years of cuts and stagnant salaries, it's time for the board to increase educator pay so Seattle Public Schools can attract and keep quality educators and compete with neighboring school districts."

 

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