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Seattle School District

The Seattle School District has faced a number of financial issues over the last few years. In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court said the state had not met its constitutionally mandated “duty” to fund basic education, putting a new challenge in front of all school districts.

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SEATTLE — Teacher negotiations at the state’s biggest school district in Seattle continue to come down to the wire.  There’s just a week to reach an agreement before a strike that will complicate the lives of thousands of students.

seattleschoolsThe reason contract negotiations almost always happen around the start of the school is because the fiscal year for districts begins on Sept. 1.  So, the start of school always coincides with the start of new budgets.  There doesn’t seem to be any way around that.

However, Seattle School Board President Kay Smith-Blum says the district began negotiations months ago, hoping to wrap things up long before now.

“Both sides have to be willing to agree to things as they go along,” Smith-Blum said, who claims the District has made several reasonable offers.  “Instead of just a yes or no, there’s just been sort of a lack of response,” she said of the union.  “That’s created this strategy where it brings it right to the brink of school, which unfortunately creates, you know, a lot anxiety for our parents and our families and our students that we really shouldn’t have.”

But the Seattle Education Association, the teachers’ union, says it has been working hard with the district for months and isn’t using the threat of a strike as leverage.

“This is up to the school board,” said SEA President Jonathan Knapp.  “We have consistently said we’re willing to sit down and been ready to sit down and solve problems and, you know, find common ground on all of these issues. The thing that is keeping us from getting to that point is the inflexibility from the school board.”

One of the big sticking points in the Seattle negotiations, no surprise, is pay.

Smith-Blum argues that the offer of a 5.3% increase over two years would keep Seattle as the third highest paid in the Puget Sound region.  And it’s a deal, she says, that will require sacrifice elsewhere.

“When we give raises to teachers, that’s part of our operating budget,” she said.  “If we are giving it to teachers and salaries, which is I think it a great investment, I’m fully on with that, we’ve got to cut somewhere else.  And those cuts are going to be painful.”

But Knapp believes a better offered is needed.

“They want high quality teachers,” he said.  “You don’t just offer them a pittance of pay and expect them to come here.”

Something else that has separated the sides in Seattle is just how long the workday should be for elementary school teachers. They account for 60 percent of the educator workforce.

“Our elementary school teachers are teaching seven hours, our secondary school teachers, middle and high school, are teaching seven and a half,” said Smith-Blum.  “We’re just trying to even the decks.”

“Teachers already stay way longer than the contract day,” said Knapp.  “It just feels like, you know, not trusting your professionals, not respecting your professionals.”

Another issue that is part of the impasse:  How much should student test scores be used in teacher evaluations?

Both sides have until next Wednesday to reach a deal to avert a strike.

Budget Stalemate Threatens Teacher PaySEATTLE – As a handful of school districts in the Puget Sound prepare for possible teachers strikes, many are asking why contract negotiations have to happen right when students are about to return to their classrooms for a new year.

Why don’t contracts expire in, say, June, which would give both sides a few months to negotiate without jeopardizing the school year for students?

We’ll be looking into this story tonight on Q13 FOX News at 4 and 5.

Local News
08/28/13

Teachers to picket outside middle school

seattle teachersSEATTLE – A strike is looming as teachers are expected to picket outside Eckstein Middle School today to voice their disgust with contract negotiations between the Seattle Education Association and the Seattle School District.

Teachers overwhelmingly voted down the latest contract proposal from the district on Monday night. Teachers say there are three major sticking points preventing an agreement. The latest proposal called for elementary teachers to add an additional 30 minutes to their work day. Teacher evaluations would include student test scores and it increases the case load for school therapists and nurses. Those three items need to be stricken from the contract or teachers say they won’t come to class.

The Vice President of the Seattle Education Association, Phyllis Compano said, “We want teachers to stay. Right now, our teachers leave within five years. We have the youngest school base of teachers so they get some experience and they move on. So, we want an educator base for our kids.”

Yesterday, parents received a letter from the school district, informing them to prepare for the start of school to be delayed.

Teachers have not set a date to vote on a strike. The Seattle school year begins Sept. 4th.

SEATTLE — Parents attending an open house at K-5 STEM at Boren Tuesday night were concerned about how their kindergartners will adapt to school.  They’re also concerned about when that will actually happen. Many say they were surprised to hear the year might not start on Sept. 4 as planned.

Transitioning Kids Back to School“I didn’t even think about the possibility,” says parent Cherlyn Crowl. “To receive an e-mail today when it’s a week away, and we won’t find out until literally the night before school starts, I can’t believe it.”

The district has asked parents to develop backup plans if there is a teachers strike and classes are not able to start Sept. 4. The problem is parents don’t know how long they might need those backup plans.

“Wednesday is my day off and Thursday I work from home,” says Holly Anselm. “If it goes to Friday, it could be a little bit of an issue. I’m going to have to call friends and see who might be able to babysit or watch him for the day.”

“In my family, it would be OK because I stay at home with the kids,” says Jen Boisoneau, another parent. “But I can imagine with other families, that would cause a lot of problems.”

“I’m worried with the impact on my job, my career. I’m a single parent and child care is not cheap,” says Cessa Heard-Johnson. “But I know as a society we don’t value education enough; we don’t pay teachers enough.”

Many parents shared that opinion. They say although a strike would be an inconvenience, they understand what teachers are fighting for.

“We’ll just have to make slight arrangements and we’ll deal with it,” says Marc Logue, a former teacher. “I think the issues they’re dealing with are important.”

As for the timing of this negotiation, parents are trying to be understanding.

“That’s the way it goes. It’s just bad planning all the way around,” says Anselm. “But as a former teacher, I understand how that works.”

SEATTLE — Six-year-old Roman Green has had a blast this summer, traveling to Europe with his family and spending plenty of time on his scooter at the Delridge skate park.  Next week, he is supposed to start first grade at West Seattle’s K-5 STEM School.

seattle teachers“He is looking forward to it so much that he wore his school uniform yesterday.  I tried to talk him out of it but he said he wanted to wear it,” his mom, Helen Green, said Tuesday.

Roman and the rest of Seattle Public School students may have to wait a little longer to go back to class. Seattle teachers voted Monday night to reject the district’s contract offer. Negotiations are continuing, but the current deal ends Saturday night.  The main sticking points are teacher evaluations based on student test scores, and an extra half-hour of work a day for elementary teachers that they say results in a pay cut.

The Seattle Public Schools District sent an email out to parents that said, “Seattle Public Schools working to reach agreement with SEA, but possible school may not start on Sept. 4.”

The Seattle teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, plans to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. Wednesday to provide an update on contract negotiations.

In the South Kitsap School District, meanwhile, excessive class size is the issue. Teachers there voted Monday night to approve a strike if no agreement is reached with the district by Sept. 1.

“It’s extremely difficult to individualize when students are crammed into classes.  Right now the high school has averages of 33-35 per class,” said Judy Arbogast with the South Kitsap Education Association.

The South Kitsap School District began calling parents telling them to make contingency plans in case of a possible teachers strike.

In Mukilteo, a tentative contract agreement has been reached.  Teachers are expected to vote on it Wednesday afternoon.

seattle teachersSEATTLE– Tuesday morning about two dozen teachers gathered to show their solidarity after voting no to a proposed contract for the upcoming school year.

The teachers and school staff are part of a union that represents more than 5,000 members. Holding signs that included a letter addressed to Superintendent Jose Banda that asked for fairness and respect during negotiations, teachers and staff cited three major hurdles that were keeping them from accepting the new contract terms.

They claim the district is asking teachers to work longer hours, include test scores in teacher evaluations and increase case load for school therapists and nurses. Teachers said those things need to be changed before they step back into the classroom.

Rebecca Adams has been teaching elementary students for a dozen years and feels disrespected by the district’s proposal.

“It’s very insulting what they’re proposing for us — to work extra without pay,” she said. “We do that — not just a half hour a day — we work hours extra a day. We take work home with us.”

The SEA hopes to resume negotiations today and plan to address the media on the progress of the negotiations on Wednesday.

South Kitsap teachers voted Monday night to authorize a strike if an agreement cannot be reached by Sept. 1 with the school district to hire more teachers and reduce class size. The district cut the teaching force by 10 percent in May — a total of 57 teachers — in an effort to close a budget gap.

As a result, teachers said  the average class size at South Kitsap High School this fall is projected to be about 35 students. Four classes are expected to have 40 or more students.

The union is in the midst of contract talks. Union officials said they have never considered a strike before but if class sizes don’t get smaller, a strike could happen.

Newly appointed Kitsap School District Superintendent Michelle Reid said there is about $1 million in discretionary funds that could be used to restore up to 15 teaching jobs. But she recently said she is not committing to any decision and wants to wait until Sept. 4, the first day of school, for the final enrollment numbers.

That date puts her at odds with the Sept. 1 deadline the teachers gave the district Monday night.

Reid issued a statement Monday that said: “While I am disappointed that the South Kitsap Education Association has chosen to strike, the District remains committed to reaching an agreement that is both educationally sound and fiscally responsible prior to the start of the upcoming school year.

“We realize and understand the potential impact a strike would cause to our school and community and are therefore focused on reaching a fair agreement as soon as possible. We will be returning to the bargaining process in the morning. I know we remain committed to resolving this contract dispute so that we can move forward together and support teaching and learning in the district.”

Tune into Q13 FOX News at 4 and 5 p.m. for updates on negotiations and hear from parents who are worried if their kids will start school on time.

seattle teachersSEATTLE — Members of the Seattle Education Association voted no to new proposed teacher’s contracts Monday evening and by Tuesday morning, teachers gathered to show solidarity in the negotiations.

About two dozen teachers held signs with a letter to Superintendent Jose Banda that asked the district to be fair and respect educators in the negotiations. The union the teacher’s are part of includes not only teachers but also staff members and represents more than 5,000 workers.

The SEA said there are three major hurdles preventing teachers from signing a new contract. They claim the district is asking teachers to work longer hours, include test scores in teacher evaluations and increase case load for school therapists and nurses. Teachers said those issues things have to be addressed before they start working this school year.

Rebecca Adams has been teaching elementary students for a dozen years and feels disrespected by the district’s proposal.

“It’s very insulting what they’re proposing for us — to work extra without pay,” she said. “We do that — not just a half hour a day — we work hours extra every day. We take work home with us.”

The SEA hopes to resume negotiations Tuesday. They plan to address the media on the progress on Wednesday.

SEATTLE — “I believe there will be a strike.  I’m willing to do what I need to do, even though I know there will be consequences at the household,” Seattle teacher Donte Felder said

SeattleTeachersThat was Felder before the teachers’ meeting started. It lasted 90 minutes and, while there was no vote to strike, Seattle public school teachers did vote to reject the district’s latest contract offer on the advice of union leadership, which already rejected the proposal.

Still, there is optimism.

“There’s lots of time still to get to an agreement.  We hope a strong statement tonight will send the district back to the bargaining table with some more flexibility on the issues that we haven’t been able to get an agreement on,” Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp said.

The sticking points include a district proposal for elementary teachers to work longer days after students leave the classroom.

The union says that is time for which the teachers won’t get paid while at the same time the district wants to eliminate supplemental pay those teachers get now.

The union says that amounts to a pay cut.

Compensation is another big issue.

The district is offering a 4% salary increase over the next two years and full restoration of a 1.3% salary reduction that was mandated by the Legislature.

But union leaders say that is simply not enough to keep up with the high and rising cost of living in Seattle.

Also at issue; caseloads for educators and staff associates and lastly teacher evaluations.

“I think our requests are all reasonable and the district says no, it means they’re certainly not listening to what’s happening in the schools and creating the best environment for teachers and kids,” Seattle teacher Edith Ruby said.

Superintendent Jose Banda released a statement saying:

“We remain committed to the negotiation process. We are confident the bargaining teams will be able to craft solutions that keep student success the priority and meet the needs of both sides.”

Teachers hope so, too, because a strike could be financially devastating for many.

“We could probably weather a few weeks and then we’d be tapped out,” Seattle teacher Kathy Saxon said.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Education Association board of directors and the representative assembly both unanimously voted to reject the current contract proposal on the table from the Seattle School District.

SeattleTeachersMonday night, thousands of union members endorsed that decision by voting to reject the proposed pact. Negotiations with the district are expected to continue Tuesday morning.

The sticking points include a proposal for elementary teachers to work longer days after students leave the classroom.

The union says that is time for which the teachers won’t get paid while at the same time the district wants to eliminate supplemental pay those teachers get now.

The union says that amounts to a pay cut.

And speaking of teacher pay, compensation is another big issue.

The district is offering a 4% salary increase over the next two years and full restoration of a 1.3% salary reduction that was mandated by the state Legislature.

But union leaders say that is simply not enough to keep up with the high and rising cost of living in Seattle.

Also at issue are caseloads for educators and staff associates, and teacher evaluations.

Superintendent Jose Banda released a statement which reads in part; “We have been negotiating since spring and are committed to continuing discussions with SEA. We are hopeful that a fair agreement will be reached that focuses on the best interests of our students.”

SEA President Jonathan Knapp issued a statement that said, “By a near-unanimous voice vote Monday night, members of the Seattle Education Association rejected the Seattle School Board’s latest contract proposal, which they said falls far short on several major issues that directly affect students. The current contract ends Aug. 31, and school is scheduled to start Sept. 4. SEA members plan to meet again the evening of Sept. 3 to either approve a contract or take further action.”

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