SEATTLE – Seattle’s public school teachers voted Thursday night to strike next Wednesday, the scheduled start of classes, if no contract agreement is reached by then.
Members of the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 5,000 school employees, approved the move in a unanimous voice vote.
The strike vote comes days before school is set to begin Wednesday for the nearly 53,000 students in Washington's largest school district.
“The Seattle School Board has rejected most of our proposals around competitive pay, reasonable testing, guaranteed recess, student equity and workloads,” said Phyllis Campano, a special education teacher who serves as Seattle Education Association vice president and bargaining chair.
“Through their inaction, their lack of serious proposals and their refusal to publicly explain their positions, Seattle School Board members have shown they neither respect nor value us as professional educators.”
SEA President Jonathan Knapp said negotiators from the SEA and the Seattle School District are meeting with state mediators Friday morning.
The negotiations have now been dragging on for weeks, and the teachers' contract expired Sept. 1. Key unresolved issues on a new, three-year deal involve the size of salary increases and the district's proposal to extend the student day.
After the teachers vote on Thursday night, Seattle Public Schools said, "The district is optimistic an agreement can be reached, and those students can start their school year."
However, it added, "The start of school could potentially be delayed. The district is working with the City of Seattle on child care options, including Seattle Parks and Recreation and the possibility of some SPS daycares remaining open. Athletics events will operate as scheduled, unless otherwise announced."
When teachers staged a one-day walkout in May, the city of Seattle stepped in to help, opening up community centers for kids so parents would not have to scramble to find child care. It’s still unclear whether that will be an option again if school doesn’t start on time.