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Seattle teachers union panel votes to end strike; kids back to school Thursday

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SEATTLE -- Seattle teachers will be back to work Wednesday, and students will be back in class on Thursday after teachers voted to suspend their strike Tuesday after reaching a tentative agreement earlier in the day.

According to the Seattle Education Assocation, highlights of the agreement include:

  • Recess: Guaranteed 30 minutes of recess for all elementary students.
  • Reasonable testing: New policies to reduce the over-testing of our students.
  • Professional pay: Base salary increases of 3 percent, 2 percent and 4.5 percent, plus the state COLA of 4.8 percent
  • Fair teacher and staff evaluations: Test scores will no longer be tied to teacher evaluations, plus there is new contract language that supports teachers' professional growth.
  • Educator workload relief: Additional staff to reduce workloads and provide student services.
  • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap: Creating race and equity teams at 30 of the district’s schools.
  • The administration’s proposal to lengthen the school day: Teachers will be compensated for additional work.

Representatives said they are pleased with the agreement and ultimately got what they needed not just for teachers but for the kids.

“Let’s be clear; we won the fight on this contract agreement,” said SEA VP Phyllis Campano. “We had to fight for what’s best for our kids.”

That’s the sentiment echoed through Machinist Hall after SEA union reps voted to end the ongoing strike.

“This contract had been about equity and providing the best for our students and we fought those things to the bone,” said Laura Lehni, Washington Middle School Teacher.

The vote wasn’t unanimous. Some in the meeting say there were still questions about the deal,  especially when it came to compensation. The tentative 3-year agreement would give a 3 percent raise the first year, 2 percent the second and 4.5 percent the third year, which isn’t quite what some were hoping for.

“We want to work; I also want to live in the community in where I work, which I do now, but I feel like with the compensation that we get, I felt like we’re falling off the back end of middle class,” said Special Education teacher Kevin Junker.

But Junker and others said they did win other victories like guaranteed recess for every elementary student.

“From day one, this bargaining has been about students and I’m proud to say Seattle Public School district is one of the first districts ever to bargain enforceable, guaranteed minimum recess time for our students,” said Leschi Elementary School Teacher Michael Tamayo. “My daughter was supposed to start school Wednesday. She’ll be starting this Thursday but knowing that she will have guaranteed recess for her an all of her classmates that first day of school.”

The union bargaining team also agreed to the administration’s proposal to lengthen the school day but say they got their way when it comes to addressing equity and reducing the amount of testing.

“It’s a total victory for teachers, but more importantly it’s a victory for kids,” said Campano.

The general membership will meet at Benaroya Hall on Sunday. They still have to vote to ratify the contract. At that point there is still a chance they could reject it.