Elation in Seattle as teachers suspend strike

Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association announced a tentative agreement yesterday to suspend a strike by teachers in the city’s schools. Classes will resume on Thursday, Sept 17, following six missed days, KING 5 News (NBC affiliate) reports.

As news of the three-year deal spread, some teachers on picket lines threw down their signs and hugged each other. The deal was barely approved by union leadership after a marathon bargaining session ended at 6:50 AM local time Tuesday. As a result, other teachers aren’t sure the rank and file will ratify the deal when they vote on Sunday.

The deal included a salary increase of 9.5 percent:

  • 3% increase in year one
  • 2% increase in year two
  • 4.5% increase in year three

The teachers had asked for 18 percent but relaxed that demand to achieve other goals in the strike, which wasn’t all about money, contrary to tweets by Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s current governor, a Republican presidential candidate, and one of labor’s most polarizing figures.

Despite what governors from 2,000 miles away might tweet, however, and what they may think the “mood of the country is,” parents and the majority of people in Seattle, including the City Council, have shown a high level of support for the striking teachers.

Councilwoman Kshama Sawant said if the union wins, it will be a huge step forward for students and educators and would strike a chord with school officials everywhere: “A victory for the union is also a victory for education across the country. It shows that if we organize and remain united, we can resist attacks on public education,” The Associated Press quoted her as saying as the Seattle City Council passed a resolution supporting the teachers.

One local blogger wrote this:

What our kids are learning right now about fighting for what’s right, integrity, social justice, sharing, community, and solidarity is infinitely more important than the Common Core and increasingly impossible to accommodate (without eliminating art, music, p.e., and recess) “teach to the test” [worthless, useless, expletive deleted] curriculum educators have their hands tied with.

It’s revolutionary.

I will support this strike for as long or as little as it takes. Apparently a tentative agreement has been reached this morning. So the strike may end today or it might not. The community has been coming together in amazing ways. And will stand with the educators in the classroom or on the line. …

The deal includes guarantees of 30 minutes for recess every day in the elementary grades, the discontinuation of the use of test scores in teacher evaluations, support for teacher growth and professionalism, additional staff to reduce teacher workload and provide student services, and compensation for teachers who work during a school day that was lengthened as part of the district’s proposal in this contract.

Teachers also latched onto the growing dissatisfaction in US communities over testing—or rather, over over-testing. The proposed contract includes the establishment of a new joint committee, with representatives from the union and from the district, who will review and recommend testing programs used in the schools and the testing schedule.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.