Seattle teachers reject contract, consider strike

It's back to the bargaining table for Seattle's teachers and school district. Next vote: September 3, the day before school starts. Or not.
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Will Seattle teachers have a contract on the first day of school?

It's back to the bargaining table for Seattle's teachers and school district. Next vote: September 3, the day before school starts. Or not.

"This proposal will not be accepted," said McClure Middle School teacher Jan Robbins. The 22-year teaching veteran said she's never seen the contract bargaining process go this far.

Still dressed in summer clothes, some with children in tow, some fresh from setting up classrooms and attending school meetings, Robbins and other members of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) came to this union advisory meeting to vote on the most recent contract proposal from Seattle Public Schools (SPS).

A little more than an hour later, the proposal was almost unanimously rejected by union members, who represented virtually every one of Seattle's 95 public schools.

For Robbins and nearly every teacher interviewed, a key sticking point in the current proposal is SPS's desire to to tie teacher evaluations to standardized tests at a time when the District is preparing to implement Common Core standards, without having adapted curriculum for these new standards.

According to SEA leadership, other unresolved issues include SPS's proposal to extend the elementary school workday for teachers; its refusal to reduce caseloads for school psychologists and other specialized support providers; the lack of professional development for classroom assistants and office administrative staff; and teacher pay.

The union is not a monolith. In addition to teachers, it also represents instructional assistants and non-supervisory administrative staff. Different wings within the union have different agendas. Yet all agree that this contract proposal is unacceptable.

Christopher Eide, executive director of Teachers United, which represents reform-minded teachers, and Whitman Middle School math teacher William Harris, a member of that group, voted no on the current contract proposal because it offers no effective means of evaluating and compensating teachers. "I want all partners, including community members, to push hard to fix our broken education system," Harris said.

Ballard High School teacher Noam Gundle, called the evening's proceedings "an outstanding example of our collective solidarity.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Alison Krupnick

Alison Krupnick

Alison Krupnick, longtime Crosscut contributor, is the author of "Ruminations from the Minivan" and the blog "Slice of Mid-Life."