First day of school could be delayed for Seattle students; teachers to hold rally

Students in Seattle Public Schools may not be starting school on Wednesday, Sept. 7, as planned. The Seattle Education Association and the district still have not come to an agreement. Now, union members are planning to rally outside the district’s headquarters tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. This comes as union members are also voting on a strike authorization. Union members can vote until tomorrow morning, and results are expected to be announced at noon.

“Worst case scenario is that we’re on strike, but that’s definitely not what educators want. We want to reach a tentative agreement,” said SEA president Jennifer Matter. “I’m hoping that instead of announcing a strike authorization that we are announcing that we have a tentative agreement.”

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

“Unless those supports are there, unless we’re getting the respect we deserve in our contract, we can’t go back,” Liz Ruiz-Puyana, a teacher who supports first-year teachers in the district, said.

If a strike does happen, that could send some parents scrambling to find child care.

“I work, I work, if they were to stay home it’s hard to find somebody,” Daniel Salavarria, a parent, said. His son is going to middle school this year and is eager to return to the classroom.

“I’m going to be disappointed, and I really want to go to school, but if I can’t go then we cannot do nothing,” he said.

SPS said it asked the union to consider an agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOE) which would have guaranteed the start of school on Wednesday and allowed negotiations to continue.

“When faced with the choice of going back to the way it’s been for the last two years, especially because the needs have only gotten greater, then we need to stand strong,” Matter said.