Seattle teachers on verge of strike; vote to authorize expected this weekend

SEATTLE — After summerlong bargaining sessions with no contract between the teachers union and Seattle Public Schools, a strike may be nearing along with the first day of school.

Tuesday, Seattle Education Association president Jennifer Matter released a statement alluding to a battle ahead and that even though bargaining continues, there will be a vote on whether or not to strike over the weekend.

“None of us want to strike. But we have a choice,” said Matter. “We can go back to school the way things were before, with a lack of student supports and widespread educator burnout, or we can fight and unite for something better.”

Nearly 50,000 students are expected to start classes on Sept. 7 for grades 1-12, and Sept. 12 for preschool and kindergarten students.

A statement released by Matter said:

“Educators know our students need more academic, health, and behavioral supports than ever. SEA members are committed to using our union strength to bargain for these supports.

“After bargaining all summer (Seattle Public Schools) has yet to agree to proposals that would hold them accountable to meeting student and educator needs. Because we’re running out of time, the SEA Board of Directors has approved a strike authorization vote. SEA will have a general membership meeting Wednesday evening to discuss it and we expect secure online voting will take place over the weekend.

“We are still actively bargaining and hope SPS chooses to come to a tentative agreement. SPS has the power to avert further action — they do this by settling a tentative agreement that meets student needs.”

On Aug. 26, the district shared a “bargaining update” video on its website. In it, Sarah Pritchett, SPS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, stressed how critical it is to get kids back into the classroom.

“After suffering through the education disruptions and the emotional impact of COVID, it is more important than ever that our children start the school year on time,” said Pritchett.

The current contract between teachers and the district expires on Aug. 31.

“As this deadline approaches, we are focusing on working through the remaining issues with the union,” said Pritchett.

Teachers plan to rally outside three Seattle schools Wednesday morning to show support for the union before the upcoming strike vote this weekend.

On Tuesday afternoon, Seattle Public Schools sent out a letter to families and staff saying it was committed to working with the teachers union to start school on time and remains optimistic that it “will find (an) agreement on a contract that best meets the needs of our students, families, staff and schools.”

The letter also stated that the school district’s proposal includes:

  • Salary increases for all our educators.
  • Adding counselors to our high schools and middle schools.
  • Ensuring students who receive special education services can learn in a more inclusive setting, and making sure educators are trained to do so.
  • Providing staff to support students who are multilingual in their schools, based on student needs per school.
  • Additional professional development for educators.
  • Maintaining staff levels throughout the year and minimizing disruptions around school and holiday breaks.
  • Being responsible with taxpayer dollars by meeting our current budget realities, given the overall decrease in enrollment, which means a decrease in funding from the state.

The district said that its current conversations focusing on special education and multilingual education have “caused a delay in progress.” SPS has shared with the union the proposals around special education and multilingual learning, which are based on recommendations from both SEA and SPS committees that include teachers, other educators, staff and family representatives who have created models to improve student services.

To read more on Seattle Public Schools’ contract priorities, click here.