Seattle Teacher Strike Continues for 5th Day, Tentative Agreement Reached

Seattle Teacher Strike Continues for 5th Day, Tentative Agreement Reached
Guillermo Carvajal (L), a member of the support staff at Northgate Elementary School in Seattle, and Erin Carroll, an occupational therapist there, picket outside the building on the third day of a strike by the Seattle Education Association on Sept. 9, 2022. (Gene Johnson/AP Photo)
Katabella Roberts

Students in Seattle are set to miss a fifth day of classes on Tuesday amid an ongoing teacher strike over increased pay and more classroom support, although a tentative agreement has now been reached.

The strike initially began on Wednesday, Sept. 7 on what was supposed to be the first day of school for the roughly 50,000 students in the Seattle school district. The teachers union, the Seattle Education Association, said 95 percent of its voting members approved the strike.

However, negotiations have been ongoing between the school and the teachers union, and classes were again canceled on Tuesday.

“There is no school on Tuesday, Sept. 13, for all students,” Seattle Public Schools (SPS) said in a statement on Monday. “We continue to negotiate with Seattle Education Association. Bargaining teams are still working so that we can start school as soon as possible.”

In a later update posted to its official website, SPS said it had reached a tentative agreement on the educators’ contract but that a date had not yet been determined regarding when the school would start classes again.

“Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) have come to a tentative agreement on the educators’ contract,” SPS, the largest public school district in the state of Washington, said in a statement. “For now, the details of the tentative agreement are confidential. SEA members will review the proposed contract and vote tomorrow on whether to lift the strike.”

SPS added that it would share an update regarding the start of school date later on Tuesday.

“This was an incredible effort by the SPS and SEA bargaining teams. We want to thank everyone on both teams who worked hard to come to a resolution,” the school district said. “A special thank you to our educators who are the backbone of our school district. They work hard every day supporting our students and families. We are proud to move in a direction that will better meet the needs of our students and staff.”

The district added that it looked forward to “beginning school and welcoming students and staff for the 2022-23 school year.”

Better Pay, Capped Workloads

Teachers that have gone on strike are calling for more educational and emotional help for students, particularly those with special needs or learning difficulties. They have also called for increased pay and capped workloads. Their contract with the district expired in August.

The school district had initially offered teachers pay raises of an additional 1 percent above the 5.5 percent cost-of-living increase set by state lawmakers, but that offer was ultimately rejected by the union.

In a statement following Monday’s tentative agreement, the SEA said: “We stuck together, made our strength and unity known, and it worked. We are excited to have a Tentative Agreement (TA) with Seattle Public Schools. Our solidarity on the picket lines and the enormous community support we received made all the difference.”
The union said the tentative agreement is for a three-year contract with “special education ratios maintained and improved in areas, adding baseline mental health staffing in all schools, and raises above IPD every year.”

“We should all be proud of what we accomplished and what we stood up for: student supports and respect for educators,” it added.

The latest strike comes amid a shortage of teachers across the United States which has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, along with a mandatory vaccine rollout that left teachers who were unwilling to get the vaccine out of a job.

A February survey conducted by GBAO Strategies, a Democrat polling firm, on behalf of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the United States, found that 55 percent of school educators planned on leaving their jobs earlier than expected over chronic burnout.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.