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Seattle teachers’ union files unfair labor practice complaints against district

(File photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The teachers union in Seattle has filed three unfair labor practice complaints against the school district for “shortcutting the bargaining agreement.”

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The union says the school board voted Thursday night to designate some special education and preschool teachers as essential workers to force them back to work before both sides were able to agree on proper safety protocols. It is now asking Superintendent Juneau to rescind her decision to deem these employees essential, and for the district to return to negotiating a good faith agreement over changes to a proposed instructional model.

Seattle Public Schools released a statement on Monday:

The Memorandum of Understanding with SEA, from Aug. 28, 2020, provides that the superintendent has the authority to determine which work is essential and that educators who provide said services will be required to report to work.

SPS will participate in the Public Employment Relations Commission process as this issue is formally adjudicated. In the interim, SPS is moving forward with its limited in-person instruction as highlighted in the communication dated Feb. 26, 2021. SPS is confident that after the facts are heard, the unfair labor practice allegations raised by SEA will be dismissed.

SPS will continue to bargain in good faith with SEA as we seek to arrive at a new MOU focused on the phased-in return to in-person instruction for all our students.

Like many school districts in Washington state, most students and teachers in Seattle have been in a remote learning environment for nearly a full year.

Both state Superintendent Chris Reykdal and Gov. Jay Inslee have recently said it’s safe for students and educators to return to in-person instruction, even before staff has received the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it’s up to each district to decide its learning model.

A recent study released by the state Department of Health detailed 84 COVID-19 outbreaks in a five-month period from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020. In total, the 84 outbreaks included 305 COVID-19 cases among 13 counties. Of those cases, half were among students age 18 or under. The DOH says 64% of the outbreaks involved two or three cases. Read more about the study here.

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