SEATTLE SCHOOL STRIKE: Where it stands after first three days

Will Seattle Public Schools finally open next week? Too soon to say, but the weekend began with reason for hope.

Today (Saturday), negotiations were scheduled to resume between the Seattle Education Association and SPS, after three days of SPS’s first contract-related strike in 30 years. It’s the first face-to-face bargaining since early Tuesday evening, when SPS made an offer that SEA considered to be nothing new and then answered by announcing the strike (which had been authorized in a unanimous voice vote on September 3rd). Classes were to start last Wednesday for SPS students, but instead, schools have remained closed, while the 5,000-member SEA picketed Wednesday and Thursday (saying Day 2 had 97 percent participation) and did service projects Friday.

(WSB photo, Friday afternoon @ Alki)

As of this writing, neither side has said publicly how today’s talks are going. But here’s what happened after Friday’s service projects and other activities (including the afternoon Alki Beach Read-In):

*At 4:20 pm Friday, SEA announced via text/tweet that negotiations would resume Saturday “after productive talks with mediators (Friday).”

*The SEA announcement came one hour after SPS’s 3 pm media briefing, third day in a row the district had offered one for reporters. We recorded it on video, as we had done the two previous days:

(We went to district HQ daily to get the newest available information and would do the same for SEA briefings if any were offered; we’ve instead been in contact with them via e-mail as well as in person when a union spokesperson and bargainers turned up in the gallery at Thursday’s SPS media briefing.)

Each day, SEA has published what it refers to as its strike newsletter, distributed in hard-copy format to striking members. Friday, all three editions also turned up online. The third edition included the union’s attempt to clarify the difference between the two sides’ pay offers:

The union also has reiterated that pay is far from the only unsettled issue, also listing online these topics:

Fair teacher and staff evaluations…
Reasonable testing…
Educator workload relief…
Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap…
The administration’s proposal to make teachers work more for free

Before talks stalled last Tuesday, progress had been reported on issues including recess – while the union had originally sought up to 45 minutes of guaranteed recess, it and the district agreed to 30.

The district website has a page, including PDF document links, with what it says are the most recent proposals from each side on each issue – you can see it here. There is no corresponding page on the union website that we have found – if there is, please let us know and we’ll add it. The two sides both say the bargaining began in May, though a teacher writes in today’s Seattle Times that the district did not make its first proposal until August 17th. The SEA contract expired at the end of August.

When will families know if there’s school Monday?

That question was asked at Friday afternoon’s briefing. The district says it has no “drop dead” time to make that decision but acknowledged that it would try to make an announcement at a reasonable-enough time for families to make plans.

What happens to calendar dates such as end of school and graduations?

The district addresses this in its strike-related FAQ, saying:

What would a strike do to the last day of school?

Must missed days be made up? State law requires 180 days of instruction, and the state will grant no exceptions to that law because of a strike. Decisions about when strike-lost school days will be made up will be part of final negotiations after a strike. Possible make-up days include scheduled snow make-up days, break periods and next summer.

What about graduation if there is a strike?

State law requires that seniors be in school 175 days before graduation. Graduation for the class of 2016 is scheduled for June 11 and 12. Any delay of the school year may impact graduation. The length of delay can have impacts on the graduation schedule as well as the cost of makeup days.

Two notes about sports

High-school sports continue because the coaches are in a different union. Athletic directors, however, are in SEA and are on strike. Meantime, a middle-school parent forwarded us a district manager’s message about middle-school athletics:

All middle-school athletic events will be postponed until the strike is resolved and school begins. Next week’s coaches meeting is cancelled until further notice. Once the strike is resolved we will work with the athletic directors to make any appropriate decisions regarding fall sports season.

Other notes:

*If school is still out Monday, according to this Facebook invitation we received, a “school-in” is planned outside district HQ. This is community-organized so far as we can tell, not an official union event; we mentioned in Friday coverage that we’d heard of a possible Monday rally if the strike wasn’t resolved, but we’ve heard nothing further on that.

*Some businesses are offering discounts to striking teachers. We’ve heard directly from The Westy in Sunrise Heights, which says it’s offering them a 20 percent discount as long as the strike lasts. And Cupcake Royale in The Junction sported a chalkboard sign we noticed Friday offering strikers a free “Babycake.”

(ADDED 7:11 PM) More notes:

*SPS & SEA say talks are over for the day and will continue Sunday – we have started a new report here.

*Reminder that if school isn’t back in session Monday, the city is expanding child-care offerings at community centers, including, in our area, Alki, Delridge, Hiawatha, High Point, South Park – details here.

*A concert benefiting strikers has been announced for Sunday night in the U-District – here’s the Facebook event page sent to us.

*If the strike’s not over, a support march is planned Tuesday in Pioneer Square – this Facebook invite was sent to us.

9 Replies to "SEATTLE SCHOOL STRIKE: Where it stands after first three days"

  • NR September 12, 2015 (3:50 pm)

    Thank you for the best non-biased “on-the-ground” reporting of this issue I’ve seen!

  • MsH September 12, 2015 (4:03 pm)

    First off, SPS did present a new proposal which was 4% in the 3rd year among other things. SEA is wrong in reporting nothing new was presented.

    Also, SPS presented their first proposals on May 20.

  • DEF September 12, 2015 (4:31 pm)

    Not sure where you’re getting your info, MsH. ?
    Meanwhile I’d like to see the district give in as much as they can for a 2-yr contract and then get to the real work of figuring out how (in collaboration with teachers and the community) to get the state to fund appropriately.

  • david September 12, 2015 (6:20 pm)

    please post your source so we can verify.
    Guess what country does not have a teacher shortage, and who’s teachers get paid quite a bit above living wage, and who’s students have the highest rate of college enrollment…

  • DP September 12, 2015 (6:38 pm)

    I am an SPS employee, and an SEA member. I have it on good authority that SPS showed up hours late to the bargaining table, today.

  • Beachdude September 12, 2015 (7:41 pm)

    MsH – I’m afraid you are really mistaken on a lot of your info. Let’s not forget that the district had many months to propose the extended school day… But they waited until the final week to present that to the bargains teams…. You can BET that this MAJOR shift in the school day was discussed and planned behind closed doors many, many months ago…. It deserved to have input from ALL stakeholders….. Staff and parents included….. And yet, that NEVER took place…. This is NOT an example of fair, reasonable bargaining…. How would it appear if the SEA proposed some drastic change to the work day in the days before bargaining was scheduled to wrap up?…. If that were to happen, the district would cry foul play…. Please realize that the SEA has bargained in good faith for thirty years…. Look at the other districts in our area….. REALLY look at the compensation packages that have been settled….. Seattle teachers are well below many other districts…. None of whole daughter to increase the daily workload. Seattle schools has promised for years to make up for what the teachers have sacrificed…. This year, there is the funding in place (without raising taxes….) SPS needs to make good on its promises, and they need to bargain in good faith.

  • MsH September 13, 2015 (12:22 am)

    I am the partner of a SEA bargaining team member. First proposals from both sides were in May according to my partner. I can’t find documents with dates but it would behoove both sides to put some kind of timeline out to settle the rumors

    The last On the Line update from SEA has the most recent pay proposal from SPS. Here’s the link.

    I am a teacher. I value all the educators I work with. I honestly believe these efforts are misguided. I think our union is keeping people going with a lack of information and a culture of not allowing dissent. When I was doing my service on Friday, a few of my colleagues did not know until then what the latest offer from SPS was. They were shocked to hear 4% and said they would go back to work for that. The 4% was on the table when the union called a strike.

  • G September 13, 2015 (2:23 pm)


    This sounds like a high profile strike I was in over ten years old (in Seattle.) The rank and file was kept in the dark while nationals were working out a behind the scenes deal. After a month on the picket line (I was young and stupid, I admit it), we were back in our cubicles with nothing to show for it. Frankly, I’m surprised the union wasn’t sued by rank and file members. We were sold out, quite simply.

    My opposition to this teacher strike is because of other reasons, and won’t make assumptions here, but like the old quip, even if your mother says she loves you, you’d better investigate.

  • Chris September 14, 2015 (8:11 am)

    MsH, way to submarine your union and possibly expose who your partner is. Glad you feel compelled to undermine the process. Strong work.

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