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Seattle teachers strike enters its third day; no contract talks scheduled

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SEATTLE -- Classes for Seattle's 53,000 public school students were canceled for a third day Friday, as teachers continued their strike for a new contract.

Teachers spent Thursday picketing outside schools again, even though they say they’d rather be inside their classrooms.

“I’m ready to go on day one,” says McClure Middle School teacher Mary Whisenhunt. “I’m ready to go. I could teach tomorrow if we got a contract.”

But there is no new contract, so school will be closed again Friday.

Both the district and the union met with a state mediator Thursday, but they did not sit down for face-to-face negotiations.

“There’s nothing new to report,” says Michael Tamayo, one of the negotiators for the teachers' union, the Seattle Education Association. “They know what our proposals are and we're just waiting for some feedback and movement from them.”

“Our team was here in a room ready to go all day long,” countered Jon Halfaker of Seattle Public Schools. “We sat and waited.”

The district says their latest offer is still on the table. It’s a 14 percent raise over three years, which includes a cost of living adjustment. Teachers say that’s not enough.

“This is highly skilled work that we do that requires a lot of education,” says Whisenhunt. “Many of us can't afford to live in the city. I'm seriously considering moving out of the city. As a younger teacher coming with student loans from my master’s degree, it's a struggle.”

Teachers are getting support from the community. Parents and students held a “play-in” at district headquarters Thursday morning, then packed a community meeting hosted by City Council member Kshama Sawant in the evening.

Teachers hope that public support will put pressure on school district leaders to make them a better contract offer soon.

“We love our students, they mean the world to us, and we care deeply about their education,” says Whisenhunt. “I don't know that there's anything more important that what we do in the walls of these buildings.”

In recognition of the 9/11 tragedy, striking Seattle educators will perform community service projects instead of picketing on Friday, Sept. 11. Service projects include beach cleanups, litter patrols and food bank collections.