Seattle – Seattle Public Schools said late Monday that they had reached a tentative agreement with the union for teachers who went on strike last week over issues including pay and classroom support.
Earlier on Monday, the district had canceled classes on Tuesday, the fifth day for students to leave since the strike that began on September 7. It was supposed to be the first day for about 49,000 students in the district.
In a statement, the district said it would announce an update on Tuesday as to when classes would resume.
“We look forward to welcoming students and staff to the 2022-23 school year,” the statement said.
Details about the agreement were not immediately available.
The striking teachers said their main concern was educational and emotional help for students, especially those with special needs or learning difficulties.
The union, the Seattle Education Association, said in a statement: “We should all be proud of what we achieved and what we stood for: support for students and respect for teachers.”
Micah DiLorenzo has a son at Seattle High School and supports teachers who dropped out, but he’s concerned about the toll on students whose first days are delayed.
DiLorenzo’s 15-year-old son is a student at Ingraham High School in Seattle. He is disappointed with the proposals presented by the district.
“Maybe it’s because of COVID – parents have a newfound appreciation for teachers,” said DiLorenzo, cellist at the Seattle Symphony.
Since her son is old enough to be home alone, DiLorenzo doesn’t have to scramble for childcare, as parents of young children do. Both he and his son have joined the teachers several times to stage dharnas.
“I want to see what district teachers need in the classroom – I want to see mental health support in place in the form of counselors, social workers, nurses,” she said.
The schools were dealing with the problems they were dealing with before the Covid pandemic intensified when students returned after pandemic-related closures last year, he said. Her son noticed the difference on the first day of school in the fall of 2021.
“It was a lot of instability and chaos,” she said.
“For me, the mental health effects of keeping schools closed have a special impact on teens,” she said.
In Seattle, the school district offered an additional 1% pay increase over the 5.5% cost-of-life increase set by state lawmakers—much less than the union’s—as well as a one-time bonus for some teachers, including $ 2,000 are included for third-year Seattle teachers to earn an English language or dual language support.
Teachers in the city have seen healthy growth since their last strike in 2015, with many earning more than $100,000, thanks in large part to a new state education funding model. The union has said it is primarily focused on securing wins for its low-paid members, including director assistants and front office staff. Many say paraeducators at Seattle public schools start at $19 an hour—not enough to live in the city.
This year, he isn’t really looking forward to going back to school, but DiLorenzo is concerned about the effects of delays in the opening of schools.
The union says it was opposed to the district’s efforts to eliminate the staffing ratio for special education students.
One issue for Seattle public schools is declining enrollment. Estimates suggest Washington state’s largest school district loses several thousands of students over the next few years, which officials say translates into a significant budget deficit.
Districts across the country have faced labor challenges as the pandemic has put extraordinary stress on teachers and students.
Teachers in Minneapolis, Chicago and Sacramento moved earlier this year before securing new contracts.
Heather Larson lives in Snoqualmie, Washington, but her 16-year-old attends Interagency High School in the Seattle District because it is the only one in the area for minors who are also in recovery. “Getting them back to school is important,” Larson said of her child. “One of the hard things for kids with substance use disorder is the need to keep it consistent.”
She’s got a flexible job where she can work from home some days, but other days her child has to accompany her to work and sit in her office.
“I am there for all the teachers who are fighting for what they need,” Larsen said.
Credit: www.nbcnews.com /