Teacher strike indefinitely closes Seattle Schools
Sep 7, 2022, 11:12 AM | Updated: 1:57 pm
(Photo from Sam Campbell)
For the 50,000 students in Seattle Public Schools (SPS), summer vacation has been extended indefinitely as teachers begin their strike. Negotiations between the district and the union fell apart last month.
Teachers and other staff are picketing at schools across the district with plenty of chanting, sign-waving, and rallying along the picket lines.
The Seattle Education Association (SEA), the union representing the more than 6,000 teachers in SPS, voted yesterday to authorize a strike if they could not reach an agreement with the district by Tuesday night. None was reached.
Contract negotiations have been ongoing for months, with teachers asking for higher pay, more staff to lower the student-teacher ratio, and an increase in special education and multilingual education staffing. The current contract expired Aug. 31.
“We had a really difficult decision to make, and believe me, that decision was not taken lightly on whether or not we would authorize a strike, because no one wants to strike,” SEA president Jennifer Matter said. “But SPS has given us no choice. We cannot go back to the way things have been, we need to fight for something better.”
Seattle Schools teachers authorize strike, first day of class officially delayed
“Members spoke very loudly and clearly. We had 75% of our membership voting, 95% of them voted to authorize a strike,” she continued.
SEA posted a notice on its website last night, notifying parents that a “planned work stoppage” has delayed the start of the year, canceling classes for the day.
Parents and community members largely spoke out in support of the teacher’s union, saying that the district needed to break into the district’s reserve fund, valued at approximately $161 million, to start compensating teachers properly. They also generally disapproved of how the district handled communication about the negotiation process and how it would affect the students.
Not everyone was in agreement, with some claiming that the teachers are using students as pawns in a coordinated labor movement. But for most, they want the situation resolved so teachers can get back to educating students.
“I understand the teacher’s position, but for the sake of everyone, I was hoping they would reach a decision as soon as possible,” another parent said.
In a statement about the strike decision, SPS said that they would continue contract negotiations and would work to provide services to students and families affected by the strike, and remain “optimistic” an agreement is on the horizon.
“While we are disappointed with the Seattle Education Association’s (SEA) authorization to strike, we remain committed to negotiating on a new contract with our educators … In anticipation of a strike authorized by SEA, Seattle Public Schools has announced to families that school is canceled for tomorrow. We are planning for meal sites during the day, as well as working with community partners on childcare resources.”
SPS is not the only school district facing a teacher’s strike, as members of the Tumwater Association of Paraprofessionals voted to authorize a strike, Eatonville School District closed during ongoing strikes, and Port Angeles authorized a strike despite tentative contract agreements.
Teachers plan to picket until an agreement is reached.