Seattle teachers OK strike; school delay in question

Union seeks a contract that ensures support and no cuts for special and multilingual education.

An on-time start for Seattle schools relies on negotiations as a teacher strike looms.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) saw 75% of its members vote on authorizing a strike, with 95% of votes in favor of doing so, according to SEA President Jennifer Matter.

"If a tentative agreement has not been reached before tomorrow, our members will be on picket lines," Matter said on a Facebook Live post.

SEA seeks a contract that ensures support and no cuts for special and multilingual education; creates accountability around reasonable workload, caseloads and class sizes; and increases teacher salary, according to the union's website.

The Seattle Public School's (SPSP) latest proposal includes salary increases for educators; ensuring that special needs students can learn in a more inclusive setting; providing staff to multilingual students; additional professional development for educators; maintaining staff levels throughout the year; and meeting current budget realities as overall enrollment decreases, which means a decrease in funding from the state. The union has not agreed to that proposal, saying negotiators are willing to spend all day to agree to a contract that meets its needs.

"We have spoken really loudly and clearly that we can't continue that same status quo - it's leading to educator burnout, students' needs are not being met, so that is what has been on the line for us," Matter said.

On Sept. 4, SPS asked the teachers union to consider a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would have guaranteed an on-time start to school while allowing negotiations to continue in earnest. SEA rejected the proposed MOU.

The school year in Seattle is set to begin tomorrow, Sept. 7. A strike would delay the start for the biggest school district in Washington State.