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New Seattle teachers contract tackles racial equity

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

On Tuesday evening, Seattle teachers approved a three-year deal that includes a pay bump, but also benefits to the 53,000 students in Washington state’s largest district.

Phyllis Campano, President of the Seattle Education Association, told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show that negotiators made the students a budget priority in this latest contract.

“We want to educate the whole child, so it’s not just about testing,” Campano said. “We got some more counselors, we got some more nurses. Those are huge supports for our students. We talk about racial equity and how do we become better at understanding all of our students, so all of our students are learning.”

Seattle teachers approve 3-year contract

Campano says Seattle Public Schools has the fifth largest opportunity gap in the country. In 2015, SEA put forward racial equity teams, which are groups in each school that focus on what the individual school and community need.

“We want that to grow,” Campano said.

Posted on the bargaining website Tuesday night, the teachers union explained the items included in the agreement:

  • Expansion of school-based racial equity teams;
  • Expansion of social and emotional supports including increased nurses and counselors; and
  • Additional professional development opportunities for all of our educators, with a focus on racial equity, addressing implicit bias and disrupting institutional racism, and improving the learning conditions for students of color, those furthest away from educational justice.

Campano said the new agreement is about building a more equitable system so that all students succeed. That’s something that’s easy to point out in the district’s own data.

“It’s a systematic and institutional problem,” Campano said. “What are our processes in our public education system that don’t allow or that are barriers for our kids of color to learn and how do we, as educators, start knocking down those barriers.”

Campano said she’s spent time reflecting on and working on her own implicit biases to try to make herself better, but not all teachers may have the time or resources to do the same.

“Everybody has biases,” she said. “And how do we take a look at our practice and change those biases so that all students succeed?”

Jason asked, however, if they’re partially responsible for the inequity, what’s the argument for giving teachers a pay increase?

“I think it’s a system problem, I don’t think it’s a personal problem,” Campano said. “Where are the resources and the tools that that teacher needs to get better?”

The SEA said on Tuesday that it will post more details about the agreement on its bargaining website in the coming weeks. School starts on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

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