Seattle Education

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It’s unanimous, Seattle teachers vote to strike and this is why

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Seattle Education Association members at Benaroya Hall in Seattle at 7:30 PM on September 3, 2015 after teachers vote to strike.

Today, I went to the Strike Captain meeting of the Seattle Education Association (SEA, the union that represents Seattle’s teachers and educational support staff) and I can tell you that our educators are fired up and prepared to strike, if necessary, to win a contract that helps us achieve the education system that Seattle deserves.

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The Seattle Education Association bargaining team.

The SEA has been bargaining with the Seattle School District over a new contract all summer. We are now in the final days before school starts and the union and the school district are very far away from reaching an agreement. Thousands of educators will be gathering for general membership meeting on Thursday, September 3rd to either vote to ratify an agreement or to go on strike—but given the disorganized and disrespectful manner in which the Seattle school district conducted itself, I don’t expect that there will be an agreement by the time of our meeting.

It didn’t have to come to this, but the district waited until the last days of summer to respond to any of the proposals put forward by educators or put forward any serious proposals of their own. The proposals from the District, as you will read below, will do almost nothing to support Seattle’s educators or students, and in some cases would do great harm.

In contrast, the bargaining team for the educators has never in my time as a teacher put forward such a visionary set of proposals to advocate for the type of reforms that would dramatically improve our schools.

IMG_1996The union is advocating for a decrease in the use of high-stakes testing. This would include forming a joint committee with the union and the district to accept or reject any standardized testing beyond the federally mandated tests and getting rid of the “Student Growth Rating” that ties tested subject teacher’s evaluations to standardized tests scores. The Seattle School District has inundated our school with dozens of tests that students have to take in their lives as K-12 students, and it’s past time that we reclaim our classrooms for teaching rather than test prep.

Parents at a Seattle Public School board meeting demanding adequate lunch and recess time.

The union is also fighting for equitable and ample recess across the school district. Many schools in Seattle—predominantly the schools that serve low-income and students of color—have only 15 min of recess, and the union is insisting that every school have a minimum of 45 minutes. This union demand was an outgrowth of the coalition of parents from around Seattle that formed last school year called “Lunch and Recess Matter” who have been fighting for student’s right to have enough time to play and eat.

IMG_1933-2Moreover, our union wants to implement “race and equity teams” at each work site that could identify structural inequities and institutional racism and make recommendations about how to address those issues. The Seattle Public Schools have been shown to suspend African American students some 4 times higher than their white peers. The School Seattle district should be impressed by the leadership from educators in addressing these injustices in the schools, but instead they have rejected this proposal.

In addition, our union is asking for case load caps for our schools counselors and psychologists so that they can provide the individual attention that all students deserve. At many schools, including Garfield High School where I teach, counselors have hundreds of students on their caseloads and can’t possibly provide them social and emotional supports. At my son’s elementary school this year, the principal had to stop all spending on school supplies like paper and pencils in order to use those funds to save our counselor position. These issues are especially connecting with parents around Seattle and are sure to generate a lot of community support if we do end up striking.

As of today educators are asking for a 6 percent raise each year for the life of the three year contract—a minimal increase given the fact that we have not Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 6 years, while the district has received some $40 million in new monies from the state this year and has approximately $50 million in its reserves. The cost of living has skyrocketed in Seattle and it is becoming increasingly impossible for Seattle’s educators to afford to live in the city where they work. Several other school districts around Washington state pay educators more than they do in Seattle, even though the Seattle’s cost of living is by far the most expensive. This is unacceptable and the Seattle School district needs to compensate educators fairly.

Our bargaining team has done the important work of putting forward proposals that actually meet the needs of Seattle’s families, teachers, and educational support staff. Our members are energized and willing to go on strike, as their participation in the one-day strike action against the State Legislatures’ failure to adequately fund education demonstrated. The SEA leadership has indicated that they are willing to go on strike in a way they never have before in my time as a Seattle teacher.

It appears that the Seattle School district has a clear choice: accept our proposals for a just contract that improves education for Seattle’s students, or reject our proposal and trigger a strike.

Now it’s time to support our teachers.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Post Script:

A little known fact: The teachers on the SEA bargaining team are not paid for the hours they spend in meetings as they did this entire summer.

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Teachers at Franklin High School in Seattle.

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Teachers at the Seattle Education Association meeting held on September 3, 2015.

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A group holds signs along a Northgate I-5 overpass in Seattle, as school district administrators and members of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) meet Thurs., Aug., 20 2015, for final contract negotiations, prior to the SEA’s general membership meeting set for Monday.

A group of teachers and supporters hold signs along a Northgate I-5 overpass in Seattle, as school district administrators and members of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) met Thurs., Aug., 20 2015, for final contract negotiations.

19 comments on “It’s unanimous, Seattle teachers vote to strike and this is why

  1. Pingback: Why Collective Bargaining is Good for Public Health | Sound Progress

  2. Anonymous
    September 14, 2015

    THANK YOU!

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  8. Mr R
    September 6, 2015

    Solidarity from Birmingham, UK – keep fighting for those kids!

    • seattleducation2010
      September 6, 2015

      Hello Birmingham!

      I was wondering who in the UK was reading this blog ;-)

      There seems to be a fairly regular audience in your part of the world.

      Dora

  9. Anonymous
    September 6, 2015

    Seattle: stop testing your students excessively! Please trust your dedicated teachers — they are able to foster critical thinking and real learning among the students, far better than any test relying upon rote memorization ever will. As a college professor, I am looking for students who know how to slowly consider all sides of an issue or problem, not students to can brain dump on a test and then forget it all the next day.

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  11. Grace S.
    September 4, 2015

    KUDOS to the SEA officers and members for standing up for what is right . Keep up the good work!

  12. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015

    Good for them stop testing go back to teaching. Get the government out of our schools and support our teachers

  13. Pingback: Ed News, Friday, September 4, 2014 | tigersteach

  14. Pingback: Teacher Power: The Struggle for Public Education Inside and Outside of the Classroom | the idealist critic

  15. Pingback: It’s unanimous, Seattle teachers vote to strike and this is why | saveourcola

  16. Publius Withering
    September 3, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Withering Apple and commented:
    Wouldn’t it be great to have the Right to Strike?

  17. Pingback: BREAKING NEWS: Seattle Teachers Vote to Strike! | Diane Ravitch's blog

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