Strike may be looming for Seattle Public School teachers

by: David Ham Updated:

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SEATTLE —

The first day of school is a week and a day away, and thousands of Seattle Public School teachers are still without a contract.

Members of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) rejected the Seattle School Board's latest contract proposal Monday night.

Teachers plan to deliver signed letters to Superintendent Jose Banda on their concerns over the contract stalemate Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

SEA believes it falls short on several major issues that directly affect students.

"Seattle educators are standing up for a fair contract that focuses on what Seattle students really need: more time for teachers to teach and students to learn," said SEA President Jonathan Knapp. "The Seattle School Board's current proposal falls far short of what educators know Seattle's children need and deserve."

But Seattle Schools superintendent Jose Banda said, "While we are disappointed that members of the Seattle Education Association did not approve our proposal, we are hopeful that we will reach an agreement that is in the best interests of students prior to the start of school."

Banda added, "We are pleased that we have reached common ground on many contract topics with a few items remaining to be resolved. We remain committed to the negotiation process. We are confident the bargaining teams will be able to craft solutions that keep student success the priority and meet the needs of both sides."

SEA says major sticking points 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. In contrast, 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"The Seattle School Board insists on outdated elements of the local teacher evaluation system that unnecessarily duplicates and conflicts with the state's new teacher evaluation requirements and distracts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.

"The Seattle School Board is ignoring the need to provide professional development for paraprofessionals (classroom assistants) and reduce workloads for office professionals (school secretaries)."

The current contract ends on Aug. 31. School is scheduled to start Sept. 4.

SEA members plan to meet again Sept. 3 to either approve a contract or take further action.

So far a strike vote has not been scheduled.

A spokeswoman for Seattle Public Schools said that if teachers do not negotiate a contract by the first day of school they can continue to work, if they agree to work without a contract.