(Added, reader-contributed video: Ben Evans recorded Thursday night’s vote at Benaroya)
8:19 PM: The Seattle Education Association – which represents educators in Seattle Public Schools – says its members have voted to strike if an agreement isn’t reached. It was by a unanimous voice vote, according to our partners at The Seattle Times. The two sides are scheduled to resume talks tomorrow, with a mediator. More to come.
ADDED 8:37 PM: Here’s the official news release just e-mailed by SEA:
By an unprecedented thunderous unanimous vote, Seattle educators have voted to strike beginning the first day of school, Sept. 9, if the Seattle School Board fails to negotiate a tentative contract agreement before then.
“The Seattle School Board has rejected most of our proposals around competitive pay, reasonable testing, guaranteed recess, student equity and workloads,” said Phyllis Campano, a special education teacher who serves as Seattle Education Association vice president and bargaining chair. “Through their inaction, their lack of serious proposals and their refusal to publicly explain their positions, Seattle School Board members have shown they neither respect nor value us as professional educators.”
SEA President Jonathan Knapp said negotiators from the SEA and the Seattle School District are meeting with state mediators Friday morning.
“Seattle teachers and support staff are unified and resolute in working for a fair contract,” he said. “And we’re willing to do what it takes to get one. The Seattle School Board must get down to work and move on these crucial issue so our students can start school on time.”
Although negotiations began in May, and educators set an Aug. 24 deadline for a contract settlement, major unresolved issues haven’t changed:
*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. We’ve 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 and staff evaluations: Educators should be evaluated fairly and consistently, and the focus should be on providing the support all educators need to be successful.
*Reasonable testing: Too much standardized testing is stealing time away from classroom learning.
*ESA workload relief: Educational staff associates provide students with crucial services and support, but their current workloads mean many students aren’t getting the help they need.
*Office professional workload relief: Office professionals do crucial work and play many roles – and they should be compensated for the extra work they do.
*Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap: We need to focus on equity issues across Seattle, not just in six schools.
*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.
SEA represents about 5,000 teachers, instructional assistants, paraprofessionals, nurses, counselors, substitute teachers and office professionals who educate 52,000 students in the Seattle School District.
10:06 PM: And the district has sent a news release as well:
Seattle Education Association (SEA) members have voted to authorize a strike tonight, potentially delaying the start of school. SEA members took the action after a collective bargaining agreement could not be reached between the union and the Seattle Public Schools (SPS).
SEA represents the district’s educators, substitutes, paraprofessionals, instructional assistants and office professionals. The current contract with SEA expired Tuesday. A vote to authorize a strike is not declaring a strike. The union is not allowed to declare a strike until 72 hours after the vote to authorize. Securing an agreeable contract for union members is highly important to both SPS and SEA.
SPS and SEA have a shared goal of providing a quality education for our 53,000 students. The district is optimistic an agreement can be reached, and those students can start their school year. A mediator will meet with both sides Friday to assist in the negotiation process and the district is hopeful that an agreement can be made to start school as scheduled, on September 9.
“Our goal is a contract which honors, respects and pays oureducators and provides more instructional time for all students, including those children who desperately need more time with outstanding teachers in order to succeed,” said Superintendent Larry Nyland. Seattle remains behind other districts statewide in the amount of daily instructional time for students, approximately six hours and ten minutes.
SPS has proposed a 13% salary increase over three years for SEA members, including a state Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). Since 2007, the district has increased salaries for teachers by 23%, exceeding the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 19% over the same time period.
The start of school could potentially be delayed. The district is working with the City of Seattle on child care options, including Seattle Parks and Recreation and the possibility of some SPS daycares remaining open. Athletics events will operate as scheduled, unless otherwise announced.
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