Patrick Robinson
Teachers and other school employees were out, even in extremely heavy rain at the top of the West Seattle freeway on Aug. 29 in support of the efforts of the Washington Education Association's negotiation with Seattle Public Schools on a new contract. Those negotiations have been going on all week.

Teachers and school employees turn out by the hundreds to support contract negotiations

Hundreds of Seattle teachers and school employees turned out in four locations around Seattle, including Ballard, Rainier Valley, Northgate and West Seattle.

Speaking for the Washington Education Association, Rich Wood said, "The Seattle School Board needs to make teachers and other school employees a fair contract offer that gives them the support they need to educate all of Seattle's public school students."

Negotiations over that contract are underway now and have been going on since last Spring. The existing contract ends Aug. 31.

Seattle Public Schools have indicated 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.

If the contract issues are not settled, it could lead to a strike, causing school to be delayed past the scheduled Sept. 4 start date.

In a statement on their website SPS said

"We encourage families to make back-up plans for your child(ren) in the event that school does not start on time on Sept. 4. We will continue to provide updates as new information is available via this website, telephone and email messages, Twitter @seapubschools, and alerts to community organizations as well as media.

SPS and SEA, which represents teachers, have been negotiating since the spring to reach agreement on a new labor contract that will cover the next two years.

We appreciate our teachers, and have offered a fair agreement that supports increasing student achievement. However, SEA rejected the District's latest contract proposal. SEA plans to meet again on Sept. 3 to vote on whatever the proposal is at that time. Key points of ongoing discussion include:

• Compensation – We offered a fair and competitive wage, which compares favorably with districts in the region. Compensation would increase by 5.3% over two years

• Evaluation – We asked that the evaluation system developed jointly with SEA three years ago continue. The current system impacts student achievement by ensuring there is a high quality teacher in every classroom.

• Work hours for elementary teachers – We want to reinstate 30 minutes of the workday, bringing total hours to 7.5. High school teachers already work 7.5 hours, as do elementary teachers in other districts in Puget Sound. This time could be devoted to planning and examination of student progress.

We are bargaining in good faith and continue to offer compromises in order to reach an agreement."

Wood said they are looking for a contract that addresses, "compensation, evaluation, length of the school day, case loads for therapists, and psychologists. It's the the whole package. That's why we had hundreds of Seattle educators out on the street corners."

In a press release sent earlier this week the Seattle Education association said,

"By a near-unanimous voice vote Monday night, members of the Seattle Education Association rejected the Seattle School Board’s latest contract proposal, which they said falls far short on several major issues that directly affect students.

The current contract ends Aug. 31, and school is scheduled to start Sept. 4. SEA members plan to meet again the evening of Sept. 3 to either approve a contract or take further action.

“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.”
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. 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 duplicate and conflict 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).

“Seattle School Board members don’t care that we are there for the kids,” said Antoinette Felder, a secretary and member of the SEA Bargaining Team.

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