SCHOOL STRIKE? Board meets tonight to consider authorizing court action if it happens; union says ‘still time’ to avoid it, makes what district calls ‘counter-offer’

(UPDATED 3:11 PM with district tweet)

5:04 AM: Contract talks continued on Labor Day between Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association – but instead of points of progress, this time around, the biggest news is the district’s announcement of a special board meeting tonight, seeking authority to go to court if there’s a strike. Here’s the action item on that meeting’s agenda:

(Read it here if you can’t see the embedded version above.) SEA members voted last Thursday night to strike tomorrow if there’s no contract deal; there was word of some progress over the holiday weekend, including agreeing on 30 minutes of guaranteed recess (the union had previously sought 45 minutes) and issues relating to substitute teachers, but no word of progress on Monday. Tonight’s special board meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 pm at district HQ in SODO (3rd S. & S. Lander), with a closed-door “executive session” up first, followed by the aforementioned resolution to be considered in open session thereafter.

9:57 AM: The union has just posted an update – see it here. From that update:

The SEA Bargaining Team continues to bargain in good faith – last night the team proposed a two-year contract and proposed creating a work group to study the possible merits and feasibility of extending the school day.

While we moved closer on some issues through the course of Monday’s bargaining, including on evaluations, the school board’s 11 pm package proposal still insisted on a 30-minute longer school day without a commitment to pay for that time. The district administration’s wage proposal barely budged from previous offers: 2 percent this year, 3.2 percent next year, and 3.75 percent the following year, when certificated staff would begin working 30 minutes longer. The SEA pay proposal is 6 percent a year.

We don’t have a tentative agreement, and our strike deadline is almost here.

As we’ve said all along, we’re dedicated to negotiating a fair contract and starting school on time, but the school board and district administration must recognize that educators need to be part of the decision making about what is best for students.

Our team is willing to meet with district bargainers today, but only if there’s a sense that continuing to meet would be productive.

12:13 PM UPDATE: Just received from district spokesperson Stacy Howard via e-mail:

We wanted to provide a very brief update, a more official detailed will be likely be provided later.

· SPS has offered $62 million as a counter to the $172 million worth of asks of SEA

· Includes

o Significant staff increases for special education

o Wage increases

o 30 minutes of additional student instructional time in year 3

· We gave that proposal just before midnight last night and are awaiting a response from SEA

· SPS bargaining team continues to be ready and available to meet

· We ask that families please have a contingency plan in place for childcare, in case school does not start tomorrow

· We are asking the media to help us in reaching out to some of our communities where English is a second language, for preparations.

We will continue updating this story until either late afternoon or a major development, whichever comes first, at which time we’ll start a new story and will add the link here so people know where to find it. We’re keeping this linked at the top of our sidebar (“BIG STORIES”) for easy finding, in the meantime.

3:11 PM: Neither side has yet ruled out the possibility that school COULD still start tomorrow as scheduled. The latest update is this district tweet from minutes ago:

No details of the counter-offer yet.

41 Replies to "SCHOOL STRIKE? Board meets tonight to consider authorizing court action if it happens; union says 'still time' to avoid it, makes what district calls 'counter-offer'"

  • Concerned student September 8, 2015 (7:03 am)

    So, what’s the result from last nights board meeting?

  • Looking for solutions... September 8, 2015 (7:15 am)

    This seems shady. Instead of calming our fears or updating with more progress what we basically see is a threat. Seattle Public Schools should be ashamed of the way they have handled this entire fiasco.

  • SeaK September 8, 2015 (7:17 am)

    The board meeting is tonight, Tuesday.

  • Joe Szilagyi September 8, 2015 (8:21 am)

    War on teachers, war on children.

  • joel September 8, 2015 (8:27 am)

    so this is looked at as a threat by the school board but it’s okay for the teachers to threaten a strike?….what’s the difference? The teachers’ union is doing what they feel is needed to be done and the school board doing what they feel is needed to be done…sounds like normal business activities.

  • Marie September 8, 2015 (8:32 am)

    Is it not possible for a contract extension to be made while negotiations are underway so our kids don’t have to miss school?

  • Mcbride September 8, 2015 (8:54 am)

    More acrimony. Just what the situation calls for.
    Turn it around, SPS. You’re on the wrong side of history.

  • ParentofTwo September 8, 2015 (9:16 am)

    I’m confused by some of the knee jerk reactions I’m seeing. Are some of you suggesting that if there is a strike implemented tomorrow, that SPS not have a plan? That wouldn’t be remotely appropriate and many of us would be quite frustrated if we believed they weren’t planning for the strike. We may or may not like how the negotiations are going, but each side needs to know how they will proceed if there isn’t a positive resolution today. And how is it only the fault of the district if the teachers go on strike? Aren’t there two sides at the table? Negotiations generally require both sides to budge, as has happened on a few of the issues already. Last question – what should SPS have done differently? I have very much appreciated the ongoing updates from the district, even though they clearly have an administrative spin to them. Absent simply giving the teachers everything they wanted, what should SPS have done?

  • joel September 8, 2015 (9:22 am)

    letter from district references sick pay for teachers….why during strike would anyone be allowed to use sick pay?

  • me September 8, 2015 (9:23 am)

    So when and how do we know if there will be school tomorrow?

  • AmandaKH September 8, 2015 (9:24 am)

    This is really simple. Give the teacher’s everything they are asking for, every time. Strike averted. I will be at this meeting tonight expressing my outrage at SPS and their “solution” to our teacher’s standing up for our kids. Shame on SPS, shame!

  • David Brown September 8, 2015 (9:48 am)

    I find both parties at fault for potiential school closures this week and forcing parents to scrample for alternative daycare.

    Did the contract deadline suddenly appear? Was no one aware of negotiation due by the end of the contract date? It’s like both sides are “cramming” to complete a paper they knew was due.

    Repeated push to brinkmanship by both sides is irresponsible by both parties. All it does is punish the parents.

    Frankly I wish the parents could get a court order to force both parties to work.

    • WSB September 8, 2015 (9:52 am)

      DB – As mentioned in numerous previous discussions, the negotiations have been under way since May.
      “Me” – Re: “how will you know if school’s on?” there’ll be a barrage of information, I have no doubt, including here and other news outlets, social media (including ours – on Facebook and Twitter, we’re at /westseattleblog), e-mail from the district, etc.
      Meantime, the SEA has issued another of its bargaining benefits – which we’ve been checking on multiple times daily – and it opens by saying in the union’s view, there’s still time to get a tentative agreement and “have school start on time.” Dated this morning:
      As for the district, its newest update, linked from its home page, is dated yesterday, and says they advise parents to have a backup child-care plan.

  • joel September 8, 2015 (10:12 am)

    funny how the union held a meeting with 150 people training them how to picket and run the picket lines but then in the same union letter it seems to look down upon the superintendent telling the parents to be prepared for alternative child care plans come tomorrow……so the union can prepare for a strike but the school board can’t?

  • Stephanie Juha September 8, 2015 (10:16 am)

    I agree with AmandaKH.
    The district, school board, and Nyland are being bullies. Don’t they teach anti-bulling in school these days. Did they miss that training?
    I don’t know of a single teacher who only works the hours they are paid to work. They work countless hours above and beyond what they are paid to work. They have the most important job in our society. Now they are being asked to work additional hours for a pay increase they should have gotten years ago. Come on people! In what world is this acceptable? You working parents out there, I know you are stressed about finding childcare, but how would you feel if your boss asked you to work additional hours for what essentially amounts to a COLA increase you haven’t received for many years? I find it sad that the teachers have to advocate for our children against the school board and the district. They had to compromise on recess time. Shouldn’t it be our school board and the district that look out for our children? I’m beyond frustrated at how SPS is putting a spin on the negotiations to make it look like the SEA is at fault. Yes, they have been negotiating all summer, but the district has not been willing to compromise and instead has been bullying the teachers because they know the teachers really don’t want to strike. This happens every year. SPS is disingenuous in their negotiations. They wait until the last minute to see if they can bully the teachers into accepting unfavorable terms because they know the teachers really care about our students, unlike SPS.

  • actuallyworking September 8, 2015 (10:23 am)

    For those interested parties, what court, exactly, would the school district appeal to?

  • Sick of it September 8, 2015 (10:54 am)

    I’ve lost patience with both sides. We are just getting out of the recession. Yes, wage is stagnated. Believe me, we see our pay checks too. Can’t both sides get to a median point of 13% and be done? Pay the subs more too! Can there be an easier and faster way to get rid of poor performing teachers and administrators as well? I’m sick of volunteering, painting more fricking walls, landscaping schools, raising money, writing checks, dealing with inside school politics, and still have to spend evening/weekend time supplementing and paying for online classes and sending children back to the usual year in, year out, stuffed to the gill schools with 1/2 days, no class Fridays.

  • Alice September 8, 2015 (11:08 am)

    Lending my support to teachers, who are fighting for a fair raise after going without cost of living increases for something like six years. Meanwhile, the cost of living has skyrocketed! We all benefit from keeping our teachers in the communities they serve… And my personal message to to the district: shame on you for chipping away at recess time (from which kids and teachers mutually benefit!) and for proposing an extended school day — without ever engaging parents in the decisions!!!

  • NASEA September 8, 2015 (11:17 am)

    Frustrating on many levels. When is the deadline 5:00 PM or do I have to stay up until Midnight? Put employer on hold but that does work forever.

    • WSB September 8, 2015 (11:39 am)

      NASEA, SPS’s spokesperson has been quoted as saying they hope to make a decision by day’s end. (Which means closer to 5 than midnight) We’re monitoring all channels and if it’s not decided by late afternoon, will be at SPS HQ to see who says what as tonight’s special board meeting gets started. (5:30 pm) – TR

  • Gabby September 8, 2015 (11:21 am)

    I haven’t paid much attention to this issue (I should, I have a child in public school) but having just caught up, I’m astonished anyone would blame teachers for demanding a fair pay raise after years without one, especially since the district is adding 30 minutes to their work day without compensation. Everyone who lives here knows about the skyrocketing rent, the skyrocketing cost of buying a home here, and the skyrocketing traffic that a teacher would be in should they be forced to move further away from their school just to afford a place to live. It’s untenable. They need the raise, period. I say STRIKE!

  • seaview September 8, 2015 (11:27 am)

    The teachers are true public servants and will always have my support. SPS is corrupt and needs to stop working against the very people they employ and educate.

  • Dairmuid September 8, 2015 (11:42 am)

    Applause for Stephanie Juha!

    If my boss told me I’d be working more time, and that a cola increase was not going to happen even though I hadn’t had a raise in 6 years and I’d better be taking care of paperwork at home on top of my regular hours I’d tell them to stuff it. And if they asked me to go manage an office that was underperformance, and if performance didn’t increase according to this brand new test that was wonderful (and far better than the last text that was also touted as wonderful in the beginning), I was going to be penalized I’d say no thanks.

    You can’t put the onus of a society on the backs of a group of people, give them little support and incentive and expect anything good to come out of it. You can’t complain about an education or opportunity gap and put policy in place that penalizes teachers for trying to do something about it. End of story.

  • Really? September 8, 2015 (12:06 pm)

    1. The 30 “extra minutes” are not unpaid minutes, they are within the hours for which teachers are already paid to be at the school. Nobody is asking them to stay at the school longer, they’re asking them to spend 30 more of those minutes teaching.
    2. As a parent it is infuriating to have a child who is being failed by the public school system, largely because there’s no way to get rid of teachers who are not good at their jobs. And heaven forbid that pay (and pay increases) be based on performance like they are in most other jobs.
    3. Recess times vary widely and are decided at each school. This was just another way for the union to try and get parents worked up over something.
    4. Can we please stop pretending that all of this is for our kids? It’s actually mostly about pay. I believe that if the union was granted everything else it asked for, but with less of a pay raise, they would still strike. Stop using my kid as a bargaining chip – his experience in the school tells me everything I need to know about how important his education is. We had to hire a tutor to supplement what he was not getting from the classroom. And we are incredibly fortunate we have that as an option – there are other kids who are just getting hosed.
    5. More teacher pay is not going to make class sizes smaller. If anything it’s going to make it harder to get more teachers.
    6. I understand that teachers need pay increases and COLA. They, like MANY other people, suffered during the recession, and like MANY other people did not get raises during that time. However, it is important to note what the district proposed (2 percent this year, 3.2 percent next year, and 3.75 percent the following year) is IN ADDITION TO the cost of living increases.

    I do support the teachers, and I do believe in public education, but I’m sick of the way that the teachers union tries to make everything seem so one-sided – and uses the kids as a pawns in their quest to get more money. Issues that are big enough to cause threat of a strike are rarely as simple as either side makes them out to be.

    • WSB September 8, 2015 (12:13 pm)

      Update for all interested: SPS has sent a short update and I am adding to the story above. No decision yet on tomorrow, though. – TR

  • AMD September 8, 2015 (12:45 pm)

    What, exactly, do you think teachers are doing while they’re at school beyond their teaching hours? Macrame? If they’re being asked to teach for 30 more minutes without pay, they’re going to be working for 30 more minutes without pay. Because the other work they were at school to do beyond their teaching hours will still need to be done.
    The district has already agreed to the 30-minute guaranteed recess the teachers asked for because science says it’s good for your kids.

  • AmandaKH September 8, 2015 (12:50 pm)

    @Really. There is a great FB site called Lunch & Recess Matter. The parents on that FB page took it upon themselves to volunteer at their child’s school and report back on how much time was allowed for lunch and recess. And the numbers were shocking.
    Not to mention all the studies (too many to link) that show that play time is critical to learning development.
    We are absolutely worked up! Stephanie hits it right on the head, SPS are bullies. And our teachers teach our kids how to be compassionate, loving and how to share and compromise. They are good-hearted people and because of that, they are being taken advantage of year after year. I say Enough.

  • joel September 8, 2015 (12:52 pm)

    from the union letter……..the school board’s 11 pm package proposal still insisted on a 30-minute longer school day without a commitment to pay for that time…….

    If a teacher work day is say from 8-4 pm is the district now requiring that teachers from 8-430pm – 30 minutes longer with the same pay OR is that 30 minutes included in the already 8-4pm work day?

  • joel September 8, 2015 (12:53 pm)

    AMD….I believe the recess was a compromise from the 45 minutes the teachers asked for…that’s how I read it on the recess.

  • Bill V September 8, 2015 (1:18 pm)

    If all of the union’s demands are met, where should that money come from? If it is an argument about allocation of funds, where is the proposal for a new district budget? Advocacy, even for just causes, is not the same thing as management.

  • SY September 8, 2015 (1:46 pm)

    No teacher I know works 8-4. My mother was a grade school teacher for 30 years. Her “work” hours were 7:30 to 5:00 at school, and hour off for dinner and then lesson plans, phone calls, and grading papers from 6 to 10. every weekday with a few hours thrown in on weekends. Her pay when she retired last year (with masters degrees in science and education) was just under 50K. Now she is stretching her pension to help us pay for full day kindergarten at Schmitz until her SS starts. Its real hard not to be outraged at this point.

  • beef September 8, 2015 (2:10 pm)

    The 6% increase they are asking for is not on their whole salary. It is just for the portion that SPS provides which is about 10-20% of their total salary depending on education and service time.

  • BMC September 8, 2015 (2:50 pm)

    So if the strike is averted – will school start tomorrow? Or will another prep day be needed – ie, to alert bus drivers, lunch workers etc?

    • WSB September 8, 2015 (3:11 pm)

      Neither side has yet ruled out the possibility that school will start tomorrow as scheduled. Just a couple minutes ago, the district tweeted that it’s received and is considering a “counter-offer” from the union. Adding to the story …

  • skeeter September 8, 2015 (3:31 pm)

    Bill V makes a good point. Does SPS have unlimited funds or a fixed budget? Is it possible SPS wants to give the teachers what they want but simply lacks the funding?

  • au September 8, 2015 (4:03 pm)

    If the school board and district cared so for our children, why are the teachers and union needing to fight for something as simple as 45 min of daily physical activity?
    Its rather nauseating that the district is using our kids’ well being as a bargaining chip. Also, it seems authoritarian for the district to demand school children to attend school .5hr longer without any public consideration and consensus (or maybe i just missed it…)

    I haven’t received any sort of raise in too long of time either, yet I hope the teachers get all of the salary increase that they are requesting. I don’t wish my stagnate wages upon anybody else. Teachers should be well paid.

    Measuring for performance is important, making it critical that the measurement tool(s) are accurate and useful. These high stakes performance tests and the myriad of hours spent teaching to them are flawed. What they are good for is the beginning of the dismantling of public education with the increep of profit into the public system. (more so than currently)

    May the school district and board yield to the union’s requests and school start tomorrow!

  • zark00 September 8, 2015 (4:54 pm)

    Bill V – current adopted 2015-2016 SPS budget shows a surplus of $25M in the general fund at the end of the year. There’s also a $4M surplus in the capital projects fund. The money’s there, SPS just doesn’t like teachers.

    Then there’s this little bit of icing:
    “In the budget passed this spring, state lawmakers boosted school funding across the state by about $1.3 billion over the next two years. Seattle Public Schools will receive a $40 million increase.”

    Avg teacher salary: ~50k
    Sup. Nyland’s Salary – 276k + $700/Month for a car +$24k a year for 401k contributions – about $308k or 6 times what a teach makes.

    $700 a month for a car?!?! That must be some car.

    We all need to take SPS, not the teachers, to task for what they’re doing. SPS is, quite simply, taking YOUR tax money and with it, failing YOUR kids. They pay Nyland well though.

  • TI September 8, 2015 (5:36 pm)

    The teachers are true public servants and will always have my support. SPS is corrupt and needs to stop working against the very people they employ and educate –
    So True! Thank you @seaview

    The district, school board, and Nyland are being bullies. Don’t they teach anti-bulling in school these days. Did they miss that training?-
    Thank you Stephanie & Amanda

    AS a teacher I promise that we work more than Dr. Nyland – and we are bullied everyday! Thank you for the support!

  • JoAnne September 8, 2015 (5:39 pm)

    We need charter schools and a voucher system. Sick of being trapped in the failing government monopoly on education.

  • justsayin' September 8, 2015 (5:47 pm)

    Two words

    Charter schools!

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