(TOPLINES: At 6:19 pm, we reported the union says it’s striking tomorrow; scroll down for that and later updates)
5:25 PM: We’re at Seattle Public Schools HQ downtown, the center of activity on this evening before either a Seattle Education Association strike or the start of SPS classes. First – the union says staffers at some schools walked out this afternoon “in solidarity” – we received this photo from Gatewood Elementary:
At HQ, we’ve received the text of the resolution the School Board is to consider, after a closed session shortly after the scheduled 5:30 pm start of a special meeting. We’ll link it here as soon as we find it online.
5:37 PM: The board has convened, taken roll, said the Pledge of Allegiance, then immediately left its chambers to go into closed-door session, expecting to be back at 6:25 pm. Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland wasn’t here yet – said to be stuck in traffic. Here meantime is the aforementioned document, with the resolution attached; we’ll embed it here shortly.
Holding up signs as board members left to go into closed session. pic.twitter.com/gMH3ASPWK3
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) September 9, 2015
6:06 PM: Here’s the resolution, at the end of this document:
6:19 PM: Seattle Education Association bargainers have just walked into the board chambers and announced THE STRIKE IS ON – no deal, and talks have ended for the night. A large group has announced that the district made its most-recent offer 20 minutes ago. (Added: Our phone video with about a minute from the announcement:)
Union leaders are telling parents, call the district and tell it to “get serious.” This is all happening while the board continues its closed-door meeting steps away, expected to emerge and decide whether to authorize district leadership to pursue legal action in case of a strike, which we now know will happen. Picketing, the union says, will start (updated) at 8:30 am. If the district goes to court, the union says, it’ll ask members what they want to do – and they expect members would vote to defy the order, as Pasco teachers did. “We want competitive pay,” the union bargainers are saying. “Equity issues, reasonable testing issues, fair evaluations” are other issues that remain outstanding, they’re telling reporters. SEA’s bargaining chair and vice president Phyllis Campano is who’s been speaking.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) September 9, 2015
6:29 PM: The board is now back in session and voting on the resolution shortly. Some hissing from the audience as a staffer reads the resolution components – including the authorization to close facilities if necessary – to the board. One component of the resolution is a suspension of regular board meetings – so if it passes, tomorrow night’s regular board meeting would be postponed indefinitely. There is a suggestion that if this resolution isn’t passed, the strike could go on for a long time. West Seattle’s school board member Marty McLaren says she is “devastated” to hear that school won’t start tomorrow. Director Sue Peters says it’s “her hope” that an agreement can still be reached soon: “There are many important components to this resolution that I do support, but not #5 – authorization of legal action,” so she’s not supporting the resolution. Board president Sherry Carr says the “#1 priority” is an agreement that works for both sides: “This is the textbook case of what results from a profoundly broken K=12 funding mechanism in Washington state.”
6:39 PM: Roll call: Betty Patu abstains. Peters votes no. All others vote yes. The resolution passes, and that authorizes the district to take legal action against the union, among other things. “SHAME ON YOU!” yell several in the audience. And a few minutes later, as the board members leave, some shout “Thank you, Sue Peters.”
Bottom line as of right now:
*Seattle Education Association says it’ll be out on strike tomorrow
*Union bargainers said no time/date set for talks to continue
*School Board has voted to give staff authorization to take legal action and other actions mentioned in the resolution (above) that just passed 5-1-1
There will certainly be more information from both sides as the night goes on and we’ll update, but for now, the board meeting is over and we’re headed back to West Seattle.
SIDE NOTE: For those still seeking child care – Seattle Parks says that while Hiawatha Community Center is at capacity, Alki, Delridge, High Point, and South Park community centers have some space for kids 5-12 already enrolled in before/after-school care there. See the original announcement here.
8:11 PM: In the ensuing two hours, both sides have confirmed the strike in tweets – no long statements yet. (Here’s what the district said.) Meantime, as you might have seen in comments, parents say they’ll be out supporting picketing teachers tomorrow.
9:30 PM: And now the news releases from both sides. From the Seattle Education Association:
More than 5,000 Seattle teachers and paraprofessionals will be on strike Sept. 9, the scheduled first day of school.
Picket lines will begin at 8:30 am Wednesday at every one of Seattle’s 97 public schools.
It is the first contract-related strike by the Seattle Education Association since 1985. Seattle is Washington’s largest school district.
Contract negotiations continued until about 6 pm Monday. On Sept. 3, SEA members voted unanimously to strike if the Seattle School Board failed to negotiate a tentative contract agreement by the start of school.
While negotiations began in May, 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.
*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.
*Educator workload relief: 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 in every school, 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.
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.
Teachers in Pasco, WA also are on strike.
Here’s the district news release:
Seattle Public Schools’ teachers have declared a strike against the district, effective at midnight September 9, 2015. There will be no school tomorrow, the originally scheduled first day of school. A collective bargaining agreement could not be reached.
Seattle Education Association (SEA), the union that represents the district’s educators, substitutes, paraprofessionals, instructional assistants and office professionals notified Superintendent Larry Nyland and the School Board by letter earlier tonight. The notification of intent to strike, was made prior to the Board’s decision to approve a resolution that would allow appropriate legal action. This allows the superintendent to take necessary action he deems appropriate to protect and serve the district’s interests should there be a strike.
Mediators were brought in to assist with the negotiation process last week. The two sides held bargaining sessions throughout the day today. After a brief break, SEA informed the district talks had concluded for the night and announced their intent to strike. The district’s bargaining team has made themselves available to meet with SEA’s bargaining team at any time.
The district has partnered with the City of Seattle on child care options including Seattle Parks and Recreation and some SPS daycares will remain open.
SPS and SEA have the same shared goal of providing a quality education for our 53,000 students. The district is hopeful for a swift resolution and those students can start their school year soon.
Bargaining updates and information including child care options can be found on the SPS website.
Also: Just received word that tomorrow night’s 34th District Democrats meeting (7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy) will start with an update from the union’s bargaining leader, who’s seen in our video above.