Seattle teachers back in classroom, but no timeline yet for contract vote

Sep 14, 2022, 6:14 PM
(Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Seattle Public Schools teachers and students returned to the classroom Wednesday after the teachers’ strike delayed the start of the school year by a week.

The Seattle Education Association came to a tentative agreement with the district earlier this week, and the teachers’ union subsequently voted yesterday to end the strike.

At a press conference on Wednesday, SEA Vice President Uti Hawkins said while the union members are back at work, they still need to vote on the new contract.

“They are willing to risk going back into work right now — without seeing the full text of that [agreement] — for the students and families, in solidarity with them,” she said. “They still need to do the full read of their contract, and they will still go through our ratification process.”

Teacher strike indefinitely closes Seattle schools

Hawkins said educators had seen ” a summary of highlights” from the contract, but they need some time to thoroughly read through the entire document and discuss it with one another.

“Our members decide what the voting window needs to be and how much time they need to process,” she said. “So we have listened to them, and they have said once they get it, we will call a general membership vote of all 6,000-plus educators to come together to open the voting window.”

When asked at what point that vote might take place, Hawkins could not give a timeline, but said it “will be coming soon.”

“Ratification is their next urgent timeline,” Hawkins said.

While she could not share specifics from the contract until it is ratified, Hawkins said there “was not a single issue left off the table.” She noted that the document included the reforms teachers had been pushing for, such as higher pay and more manageable staff-to-student ratios, especially for special education and mental health counseling.

“The ratios got stronger,” Hawkins said. “And when I say stronger, that means the ratios shifted to have more adult supports in those classrooms with the number of students there.”

Seattle students missed their first five days of the school year, but Hawkins said those days would be made up. That could be on buffer days that are built into the school year, on extra days at the end of the year, or through a combination of the two.

“What will happen is that the school year will be extended, and we have other days made throughout the year for days when we can’t be in school,” Hawkins explained. “And so students will get their full time of education with educators, that’s part of state law.”

In a statement on its website, Seattle Public Schools said it was happy to have reached a compromise with the union and was excited to be welcoming students back.

“This is democracy in action. We had some really deep issues … so it took us longer than we wanted to, but here we are with a fantastic agreement,” Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones told KIRO 7 TV.

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Seattle teachers back in classroom, but no timeline yet for contract vote