Seattle teacher-contract talks: What the district says is happening

Contract talks for Seattle Public Schools teachers and other professional staff are expected to continue through the weekend; Monday is the last day of the current contract, and classes start nine days later, on September 9th. While the Seattle Education Association hasn’t released a new public statement on how talks are going, the district has; the update sent out on Friday night was its first one since August 20th. The only specific update it contained was this:


SEA has proposed a salary increase of 21% over a three year contract period — in addition to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) from the state (25.8% total over three years). The district has listened to concerns and has increased the salary compensation proposal to 8.2% over the same three year period—in addition to the state COLA (13% total over three years). Providing a 13% increase over three years would enable our teachers to be among the highest paid in the state, which they well deserve.

SEA members are still scheduled to meet this Thursday (September 3rd) to vote on either a tentative settlement or potential strike. (For more backstory on the current talks, see the discussion that followed our last report.)

37 Replies to "Seattle teacher-contract talks: What the district says is happening"

  • ugh August 29, 2015 (6:31 am)

    Highest paid in the state still doesn’t mean appropriately compensated–there are some districts who start teachers at not much above Seattle’s minimum wage.
    Not to mention how many years they’ve gone without raises at all.
    Not to mention the district’s proposal to have them work longer days without additional compensation.
    And, of course, not to mention the real salary increase they’re asking for (saying 25% is disingenuous) in dollar terms (hint: it’s not a big raise).

  • HP Gal August 29, 2015 (6:49 am)

    That’s significant movement on the District’s part. They were asking for an extra 30 min of instructional time and only giving 2% in pay in return. Thirty minutes is 16% of the day, right? Not sure what the rationale is for 21%.

  • joel August 29, 2015 (6:58 am)

    25.8% increase? really…who do they think they are – elected government officials??

  • Lina August 29, 2015 (8:18 am)

    Just to be clear, lest this turn into a thread all about teachers just focusing on their salary (which – they are well in their right to be fired up about). Salary increase to catch up on the fact that teachers have not received a cost of living increase to their pay in many years is one of MANY things that the district has rejected. SEA’s proposal also supported guaranteed recess, more equity teams in schools and many other important actions that are essential for the success of all students. Support our teachers, educate yourself on these issues. I for one will be standing up for the folks in our community doing they hardest job of helping to raise our next generation. This school year, your child’s teacher will spend more waking hours with them than you will, they deserve our support.

  • Wsparent August 29, 2015 (8:27 am)

    I am assuming WSB did not publish the first part of the SPS district letter because it did not really make sense:

    “The School Day-Student Learning Time
    The most important aspect in a child’s education is an effective teacher in every classroom. Our district has amazing educators, and many of our students simply need more time with their teachers. This is a critical element to addressing the opportunity and achievement gap, meeting state mandates and providing adequate college and career readiness. The District has asked teachers to redistribute time during the day, giving them more flexibility in scheduling. This provides students with more instructional time and gives teacher collaboration time in their work-day, in addition to their individual planning time. Research shows teacher collaboration time increases the teachers’ professional practice. Teacher effectiveness and instructional time have proved to reduce the achievement gap by as much as a year or more. More time with great teachers will better the outcomes for all students, and especially those who need it the most. And, SPS has committed to pay for it with a salary increase. Our teachers are doing a great job.”

    I understand that the district is saying they want teachers to have more time with students (adding a half hour to the school day), but how does that create more collaboration time? Collaboration time usually means time to collaborate with their colleagues… Redistributing their day actually just means adding in a half hour more instruction time which takes away from the small raise that is being given because teachers are not going to get additional pay for their extra half hour of work. I just found it to sound confusing and it looks like they were trying to find something to tell parents, but they really didn’t have anything to say that was meaningful. Research also says that if teachers have adequate planning then they have richer lessons. Research also says that students need more breaks during a school day for optimal brain functioning, like required recesses. Where was that in this letter? Disappointing. I support our kids and our teachers.

  • Eric August 29, 2015 (8:31 am)

    Interesting that although SPS told me when I asked a question about the topics under negotiation, they responded that they would not engage “in public dialogue about proposals in order to respect the confidentiality of the bargaining process.”

    Yet this is now the third update we’ve seen that looks like public dialogue about proposals. I don’t know that it matters whether they do or they don’t, but it speaks to the district’s ability to speak out of both sides of their mouth at the same time. I would trust them either if I were a teacher.

    Support the teachers – they’re the ones who are actually educating our children and building our community!

  • WSB August 29, 2015 (9:15 am)

    WSParent, I didn’t represent that this was the entire “update,” just that what I excerpted above was the only thing “specific” in it (the paragraph you excerpted seemed to just be a restatement of a principle, not a specific detail of any change) – the district saying it had upped its $ offer. I did fail to link the entire update (which SPS said had been sent to families as well as media) – it’s on the district home page and I have added the link inline above –

  • Lynn August 29, 2015 (9:16 am)

    Does anyone else think the superintendent should have engaged in a discussion with parents before deciding to lengthen the school day? In contrast, the district insisted on a full year to study the possibility of changing school start times – spending $$$$ on a program to create surveys and staffing a series of community meetings throughout the district.

    I am happy with our public school but my elementary student does not need a longer day. He needs a longer lunch and more recess – within the current hours.

  • Laura August 29, 2015 (10:42 am)

    Teacher pay is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It’s an equity issue. In order to be hired as a school counselor, I had to obtain a masters degree. To keep my position, I have to maintain certification, spending thousands of dollars out of pocket, and engaging in continuing education. I live, work, and raise my children in Seattle, and frankly am barely able to make ends meet. On the contrary, my ex-spouse is employed by the federal government in an engineering role (male dominated). His job required a masters degree. He too has to maintain a liscence (equivalent of certification). He makes 2.5 times my hourly salary. Why is that? Our job requirements are matched. Why would he, and his fellow workers make so much more than me and my fellow educators? The answer is obvious.. It’s pay inequality based on gender. The fix? It’s easy… raise educational salaries. I don’t care if we end up being the highest paid in the state, or in the country. We deserve fair pay. Our children are the most valuable assets we have. They are the future, and we’re ensuring they are ready. They’re worth the investment. As for the rest of the contract issues at stake… Educators need to be held accountable, and the evaluation systems need to be fair. Class sizes need to be reasonable. Social & additional academic supports need to be made available for students living in poverty. Teachers need a viable voice to ensure students are getting a quality education (aka shared leadership) – that would ensure plenty of recess and quality instruction. It’s not brain science. If there’s money available, it’s time to step up the pay, and ensure policies that improve outcomes for ALL students. The district is failing in contract negotiations, and I fear there will be a strike. I hope the citizens of Seattle support us as we advocate for better pay, and better practices/policies. Educators deserve better. Students deserve better. (Please forgive any typos… Used my iPad). – Laura

  • Go ahead take it August 29, 2015 (12:03 pm)

    Ha ha, I needed a laugh. Most go ahead of my instructors in public education seemed to have a lot of sense, I guess that’s not true in seattle. I just wish I didn’t have to pay for this nonsense.

  • taxpayer August 29, 2015 (12:35 pm)

    The union is crying about fair pay when Seattle teachers have the highest salary in the state. My tax dollars are paying their salaries. No 21% pay increase!

  • Ferry Walker August 29, 2015 (1:17 pm)

    Seattle teachers should be the highest paid in the country, frankly their salaries should double. That said, this is what happens when you make the minimum wage $15.

  • Ami August 29, 2015 (1:29 pm)

    I’m not a math teacher, but I understand percents and the district continues to misrepresent the salary proposals.

    I know someone else clarified this in an earlier thread, but it needs repeating. Teachers are paid a base salary that is set by the state legislature. In addition, we receive TRI pay from the district.

    See the salary schedule here.

    Now for the math. The district keeps throwing out 21% over three years and now 25.8% which sounds like a lot, but it’s not.

    Teachers are getting a long overdue 3% COLA from the state on our base pay. For a teacher with a Master’s degree, 90 credit hours, and 10 years of teaching that is 3% of $51,950 or $1,558.50. SEA is asking for a 7% increase in our TRI pay. For the same teacher that would be 7% of $16,022 or $1,121.54. Added together that is a total raise of $2,680.04. Divide that by 12 and factor in taxes and this teacher will see an extra $150 a month in her check.

    However, this is not a 10% raise. 10% of the total yearly salary would be 10% of $67,972 or $6,797. You can’t add together the percents on 2 different numbers.

    SPS keeps throwing these numbers out to make it sound like teachers are being greedy and the district’s offer is fair. Clearly, it’s not.

    I’m not sure why SEA hasn’t clarified this yet, but there you go.

  • Nick August 29, 2015 (3:05 pm)

    I’m tired of dealing with this every year right before school starts seriously tired of Seattle public schools all around I don’t even know what time school is starting this year. I get repetitive emails wish I could afford private school. Other districts also don’t have these issues annually as well

    • WSB August 29, 2015 (3:09 pm)

      School is scheduled to start Wednesday, September 9th, if you are in SPS. The calendar is approved every spring.

  • LMerl PFk8 August 29, 2015 (4:57 pm)

    Actually Nick – this DOESN’T happen every year. Don’t exaggerate. Are you SURE other districts don’t have these “issues”? Have you fact-checked yourself?

  • Tired August 29, 2015 (5:00 pm)

    Teachers teach around 8 mos out of 12. They are pd for the 12 months.Often they take other jobs during their time off. If it’s so bad quit and get jobs that pay you for working 12 months instead of 8 a yr.

  • BMC August 29, 2015 (5:41 pm)

    I sense many are just jealous they don’t have union jobs and lack any sort of representation. The county needs MORE unions!

  • Lynn August 29, 2015 (6:14 pm)


    It’s a three year contract. The bargaining process takes place every three years. If you are unsure of the date of the first day of school, I suggest looking at the district website. There have been no changes in school start times from last year.

    You seem remarkably uninformed about the process you’re complaining about.

  • ugh August 29, 2015 (6:41 pm)

    @Nick- it’s happening right before school starts because the district has not been showing up to the bargaining table to try and get the negotiations done before the school year like the teachers have been trying to get them to. The district is hoping that the inconvenience of a teachers’ strike would help sway public opinion against the teachers (just like the intent behind their bad salary math).
    @Tired- They are on salary. They’re paid for the 10 months they work (I don’t know what school district your kids are in that summer is four months) and that 10 months’ pay is stretched out over 12. Teachers work weeks after the school year is over for the kids and start weeks before school’s back in for the kids. In between they’re often doing professional development to help them better educate your children, frequently at their own personal expense.

  • wscommuter August 29, 2015 (7:03 pm)

    @Tired … where on earth do you get this silliness that “teachers teach 8 months out of 12”? I’ll assume in your ignorance, you don’t know how long the school year is … or that teachers work before and after the school year, are required to do additional learning and prep … and so on.
    I’ll assume your real point is “they don’t work a full 12 months like I do”. True. And they aren’t paid at the commensurate level that other professionals with graduate degrees are, for the most part. They work for less, in spite of the master’s degrees and continuing education and so on.
    Be grateful they do. Be grateful that talented smart people are willing to teach our children when they could otherwise be making more money in the private marketplace with their education.

  • Cry me a river August 29, 2015 (9:06 pm)

    In addition to most of the summer,they also get winter,spring breaks off.and all other holidays off.

  • Nick August 29, 2015 (9:30 pm)

    Not all teachers agree with these unions either which is unfortunate they don’t have a voice. I personally think they are out for themselves I speak from experience working in public sector unions

  • Laura August 30, 2015 (8:59 am)

    Tracy, I’m hoping you can run a piece that does the actual calculation for the pay increase proposed by the SEA vs the proposal offered by the district, in line with what Ami offered above in the comments. is that a possibility?

  • Tired too August 30, 2015 (9:06 am)

    As a teacher and parent this situation is exasperating.
    For those of you who believe that teachers knew what salary to expect going into the profession and shouldn’t wine about it after being hired – you have a good point.
    personally I would rather have small class size. Going into the profession I expected a small salary and I also expected a supportive district and the tools to do my job. Achieving the expected results in the current situation at my school is unrealistic. To use the analogy of a teacher and an engineer – would you ask an engineer to build a bridge with very little time to plan , using substandard materials and providing half the required work force?
    how can teachers bridge the gap with outdated curriculum and oversized classes that include students with special needs? I think we need smaller class size.

  • Mike August 30, 2015 (10:12 am)

    I get tired of the bogus numbers. Here’s the actual pay of each person working in SPS.

  • Lynn August 30, 2015 (11:27 am)


    Here is some more data to make sense of those individual salaries.

    2014-15 Seattle Public Schools salary schedule for teachers:

    You’ll see at the bottom of page one that the lowest paid teacher made $44,372 last year ($34,048 paid by the state and $10,324 paid by the district from local levy funds.) The highest paid teacher earned $86,435 ($65,759 from the state and $20,676 from the district.)

    Here’s a schedule of the district-paid amounts from Everett Public Schools:

    Experienced teachers in Everett are paid up to $10,000 more per year than teachers in Seattle.

    What is Seattle Public Schools spending local levy funds on that could be diverted to paying teachers?

  • Teacher August 30, 2015 (11:28 am)

    I love my job, I could not imagine doing anything else! I knew about the pay before I even was hired, but again, I could not imagine doing anything else. Right now I’m paying off my undergrad and grad school degrees and I am also paying out of pocket to earn my national board certification so I can better my practice. At this point I’m not sure how I’m going to pay for the components I need this year, plus paying to be part of a cohort to support my work towards national boards. I have paid for clock hours to hopefully move up a lane on the pay scale, but that can take years of PD to achieve.

    I and many others work countless (unpaid) hours to ready their rooms for back to school. I have been in my room every day for almost two weeks, so my kids have an organized and safe environment in which to learn. I have purchased items with my own money like books for students, professional books for myself and countless other items my students need. It’s time that we are paid for what we put in. We do not get paid over time, and yet every teacher I know stays after school for hours, comes in well before the first bell rings and comes in over the weekend. Let’s not forget the report cards that get finished during non-contracted time, and the conference prep for all of our students and families. And the district gives us more and more to do without compensation.

    It’s time for a change.

    -love my job

  • Kristine August 30, 2015 (11:51 am)

    The district is trying to mislead the public. As in any negotiation, one side proposes high with the expectation that the other side will counter low. If both parties are negotiating in good faith, they will eventually meet somewhere in the middle. The district continues to publish SEA’s initial high salary proposal to show the public how ‘unreasonable’ the teachers are. In reality the district has not been negotiating in good faith.

  • Lynn August 30, 2015 (12:49 pm)


    Here is some more data to make sense of those individual salaries.

    2014-15 Seattle Public Schools salary schedule for teachers:

    You’ll see at the bottom of page one that the lowest paid teacher made $44,372 last year ($34,048 paid by the state and $10,324 paid by the district from local levy funds.) The highest paid teacher earned $86,435 ($65,759 from the state and $20,676 from the district.)

    Here’s a schedule of the district-paid amounts from Everett Public Schools:

    Experienced teachers in Everett are paid up to $10,000 more per year than teachers in Seattle.

    What is Seattle Public Schools spending local levy funds on that could be diverted to paying teachers?

  • Cry me a river August 30, 2015 (1:00 pm)

    Thanks Mike for the info. As far as total comp you may be surprised what your favorite teacher is making.
    The only people I see on the list that might be under payed is the Office Help.

  • Lynn August 30, 2015 (1:23 pm)

    Oops! Sorry for the duplicate post.

  • Amy August 30, 2015 (3:07 pm)

    Please support us by joining us on Wednesday, September 2nd at around 3:30 at any of our local high schools. We will be holding signs in support of teachers, school staff, and most importantly the education of our children.

    Thank you!

  • Teacher August 30, 2015 (4:44 pm)

    ALL teachers are required to taking continuing education courses in order to renew their teaching certificates as well as to earn more money. If you, or anyone you know, is still paying off school loans, you know how much you have to pay out every month. New teachers, especially, struggle because as soon as they’re done with school and pay to test for their certificate, they have to start taking more continuing education courses. The only “free” time teachers are allotted is during the summer when they take heavier course loads. If they don’t take them in the summer, they have to take them at night or on weekends during the school year.

    Typically, the individuals arguing against teacher salary increases are people who did not go to college and state how hard they have to work to earn every cent they have. That is why people go to college, in order to earn more. The other group tends to be those who are making way more than what an average teacher makes and has the time to sit in front of the computer and comment on how their taxes will increase.

    Teachers do not go into teaching assuming they’ll live a lavish lifestyle. However, teachers should not be faulted for wanting to earn a salary that will pay their bills, support their family, and give them money for retirement. Teachers often take on second jobs because their full-time job as a teacher does not compensate them enough to pay for continuing ed. and their regular home expenses.

    I remember during my first year of teaching, I spent about $1000 getting my classroom ready for students. I taught low socioeconomic kids who came to school pretending to be “too cool” when, in fact, they were just embarrassed they didn’t have money to pay for supplies like all of the other kids. Without making a big stink about it, I provided those kids with some folders, notebooks, etc. You don’t think that costs much, but that adds up when you teach 150+ kids a day.

    For the most part, an increase in teacher salaries benefits everyone. Great teachers leave the profession because they’re not paid for their skill level. They can go on and work places where someone without a college degree earns more. I am not criticizing those who did not go to college. I am simply stating that an individual goes to college in hopes to earn more than by not continuing with one’s education.

    These teachers are also hoping to increase the time kids get to spend in recess. Can you imagine sitting in a staff meeting for six hours a day with a 15-minute lunch and a 15-minute period where you were able to just stop listening or talking to someone else?! It is ridiculous to think that kids need MORE activities and more work during the day. They need rest time in order to absorb what they have learned. They need time to process and by just getting outside or playing with friends, that will help. Everyone needs a break now and then.

    The district wants to increase the length of the school day because they’re the state mandates as such. After having worked in six different schools, I can tell you that the kids don’t need longer hours. They need less interruptions and more quality time with teachers. A teacher with a classroom of 17 kids is going to be able to adequately assess children better and more often than a teacher with a classroom of 30.

    By supporting teachers, you’re supporting kids.

  • WS Teacher August 31, 2015 (5:46 am)

    One of the most amazing teachers I’ve ever witnessed was the man who invited me into his classroom to help me learn how to become a teacher. This outstanding man left the profession because he, “couldn’t afford to feed his family.” How is that okay?

    If we want great teachers educating our next group of voters, doctors, and engneers, then we should pay them what they’re worth for educating and inspiring our future voters, doctors, and engineers. Maybe then, the great teachers will be able to afford to stay in the classroom, and we’ll all be better off for it in the end!

  • Seattle Education Association August 31, 2015 (9:19 am)

    Thanks for your support, everyone. Seattle Education Association members want a contract settlement that invests in quality educators and focuses on providing the support kids need to be successful. Bargaining resumes today. Here’s a summary of the major unresolved issues:
    • Professional pay: We need to attract and keep caring, qualified educators in Seattle, which is one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Seattle educators have gone six years with no state COLA and five years with no state increase in funding for educator health care.
    • Guaranteed student recess: Recess time varies wildly across the district, and we believe all students benefit from a guaranteed amount of time for play and exercise.
    • Fair teacher evaluations: Teachers should be evaluated fairly and consistently, and the focus should be on providing the support all teachers need to be successful.
    • Reasonable testing: Too much standardized testing is stealing time away from classroom learning
    • ESA workload relief: Education staff associates provide students with crucial services and support, but their current workloads mean many students aren’t getting the help they need.
    • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap: We need to focus on equity issues at every school in Seattle, not just some.
    • The administration’s proposal to make teachers work more for free: It is unrealistic to expect teachers to work more hours without additional pay, and the district administration has been unable to explain how their proposal would help students.

  • Alex August 31, 2015 (10:27 am)

    As an SPS parent, and someone who is very eager for my child to return to school, I still STRONGLY stand with the teachers. The district is dysfunctional. Why is this happening now? It’s the end of the contract & the only time the teachers have any leverage. Do what it takes, teachers. We parents will figure it out, and the vast majority of is support you. District, LARRY NYLAND: fix it. Do your job.

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