No classes Friday as Seattle teachers’ strike continues to delay start of school year

SEATTLE — Classes continue to be delayed for nearly 50,000 students in the state’s largest school district, as school officials announced on Thursday that there will be no school on Friday after members of the teachers’ union failed to reach an agreement with Seattle Public Schools.

Teachers in the Seattle Education Association hoped to have an agreement in place with the district by Tuesday night, but instead of welcoming students on Wednesday when school was slated to begin, teachers walked picket lines at their schools.

>> Free meals available for Seattle students during teacher strikes

“We had a really difficult decision to make, and believe me, that decision was not taken lightly on whether or not we would authorize a strike, because no one wants to strike,” said Seattle Education Association president Jennifer Matter. “But SPS has given us no choice … We cannot go back to the way things have been, we need to fight for something better.”

There have been bargaining sessions all summer long, but the contract between teachers and the district expired on Aug. 31.

On Wednesday afternoon, the district notified families that classes would be canceled for a second day on Thursday.

The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Seattle Education Association (SEA) negotiations continue and include a mediator to guide conversations. We know it is best for students, staff and families to have schools open as soon as possible,” Beverly Redmond, Assistant Superintendent of Public Affairs in a statement. “While we don’t yet have an agreement, both the district and SEA are committed to working on our shared challenges. We are certain that an agreement can be reached that both values educators and serves students. Once a tentative agreement is reached, we look forward to sharing that news with our school community.”

Teachers said the major sticking points of their strike are that they want more support for special and multilingual education, smaller class sizes and competitive pay.

Consulting teacher Liz Ruiz-Puyana argues the $161 million sitting in the district’s reserve fund needs to be used. The former science teacher says pandemic dollars have not been spent either.

“Last year, I saw so much burnout in my building and in other buildings,” said Ruiz-Puyana. “I’ve been in this game for 10 years, and I’ve never seen this level of exhaustion and sheer burnout.”

Margaret Jones teaches physics and chemistry at Garfield High School.

“With this new contract, it would take more away from what we already have. Because the ratio of the special education teacher to student was going to be much bigger,” Jones said. “What is the point of my job? It’s to take care of our students. So we will be here until we can do that properly,” she said.

There are 6,000 SPS staff who belong to SEA, including teachers, office professionals, paraeducators and substitute teachers.

Hundreds of educators rallied outside district headquarters Tuesday night.

Teachers plan to picket until an agreement is reached.

SPS released a statement just as the protests were heating up. The statement reads in part:

“While we are disappointed with the Seattle Education Association’s (SEA) authorization to strike, we remain committed to negotiating on a new contract with our educators …. In anticipation of a strike authorized by SEA, Seattle Public Schools has announced to families that school is canceled for tomorrow. We are planning for meal sites during the day, as well as working with community partners on childcare resources.”

At 12:02 a.m. on Wednesday, the Washington Education Association released this statement:

“Educators want to be in the classrooms with their students and needs SPS to give those students the supports and adult attention they deserve. At this hour, Seattle Public Schools has failed to agree to a contract that adequately staffs special education and multilingual learners, that limits caseloads and workloads so that each student gets adequate attention, and that provides pay that allows educators to live in the city where they work. The SEA bargaining team is continuing to work at this hour and SEA calls on SPS to share our urgency and reach a contract agreement that brings us back to classrooms as fast as possible. The 6,000 office professionals, paraprofessionals, and certificated teaching staff united in SEA will strike beginning Wednesday morning for a contract that meets student needs.”

The district says families can expect to be updated by 3 p.m. if there is no school on the following day.

Families can still pick up meals for their children at certain school locations from 10 a.m.- to 1 p.m. Go here to see a list.


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