After negotiating for four months, striking for five days, and a final all-night discussion, the Seattle Education Association’s board of directors and its elected building representatives voted on a tentative contract agreement early, meaning that the school doors are now open for Seattle’s 53,000 students.
Paige Cornwell and Walker Orenstein report for The Seattle Times that the agreement will be voted on by the union’s 5,000 members at a meeting on Sunday, with union officials recommending a vote of “aye.” After hours of discussion, cheers were heard outside a room at the Machinists Hall in South Seattle, and union bargaining chair Phyllis Campano declared a victory. Officials for the district were exultant that an agreement had been made.
“The parties were far apart for a long time, but in the end we found common ground, wanting to make sure our children get the best education that they can,” said Geoff Miller, the district’s lead negotiator, in announcing the tentative agreement at about 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Upon approval of the contract, teachers and school employees will be given a pay increase of 9.5% over three years and a state cost-of-living adjustment of 4.8% over two years. Teacher evaluations will no longer be linked to students’ test scores, and teachers will have more input about how often students are tested.
The longer school day imposed by the district will mean more pay for teachers, while special education student:teacher ratios, along with specialists’ caseloads, will decrease. Union president Jonathan Knapp called the agreement “groundbreaking.”
Also included in the proposed contract, 30 minutes of guaranteed recess daily for elementary children and the addition of new committees at 30 schools that will be created to find ways to change the racially imbalanced discipline problem and inequity in parts of the district. Amidst the celebration, some teachers did acknowledge that not every request was approved.
The pay raise was lower than the 21% over three years that had been proposed by the union, and it was less than the 9.75% raise over two years which the union asked for on Sunday. The raises are lower than straight percentages because the increases are applied to just a portion of teachers’ salaries.
Hundreds of parents, students, and supporters walked almost two miles from Seattle’s Pioneer Square to school district headquarters on Tuesday in an arranged demonstration to support teachers. More support came from the Seattle City Council, which passed a resolution in recognition of the union on Monday, report Phuong Le and Gene Johnson of the Associated Press.
Ballard High School Principal Keven Wynkoop said a healing process will be necessary following the strike, reported John Langeler of King 5 News.
“Even though the strike did not go on for that long, it’s still always difficult to overcome a situation like this. Even though we were able to always stay cordial at the bargaining table, it gets complicated in the press, in the social media, and in the community and it’s very important for all of us to come back together,” said Wynkoop.