Seattle educators gather at a rally outside of John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence on Aug. 16, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

Seattle educators gather at a rally outside of John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence on Aug. 16, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann

Seattle Teachers Union Approves Contract Agreement

The new contract that offers a 10.5 percent pay increase now awaits the School Board’s vote.

Educators will continue the school year with a slight pay raise following their approval of a yearlong contract late Saturday afternoon. Over 5,000 teachers and school staff represented by the Seattle Education Association (SEA) will now receive a 10.5 percent salary increase and five days of paid parental leave.

The agreement awaits the School Board’s vote next week to become effective, after which it will last until August 31, 2019. The expansion of race and equity teams throughout the district that aim to eliminate opportunity gaps, and increased professional development opportunities for teachers and other school staff were also included in the contract.

SEA’s approval of the collective bargaining agreement stood in contrast to the union’s August 28 vote to authorize a strike if a deal wasn’t reached with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) by Sep. 5. Contract negotiations between SPS and SEA last stalled in 2015, when disagreement on teacher pay led to a five-day strike that impacted 50,000 students.

Meanwhile, teachers from several districts throughout Washington, including in Tacoma and Centralia , remain on strike over pay raises. Saturday’s vote also follows a Friday ruling in which Thurston and Cowlitz County judges stated that teacher strikes in Tumwater and Longview were illegal, although no penalties were levied on the districts.

Union and SPS representatives sought to avoid a similar disruption to the beginning of the school year through interest-based bargaining that commenced in May. “I want to thank our educators, the joint bargaining team, and SEA leadership for their hard work throughout the bargaining process. I am proud of the interest-based bargaining process we engaged in with SEA,” Superintendent Denise Juneau said in a statement. “We coalesced around common values, including racial equity, and crafted a contract that honors our educators and helps us advance our collective commitment to every student in the district. Seattle remains competitive with our neighboring districts while maintaining critical services for students and families.”

Educators in most of the state’s nearly 300 school districts were seeking higher wages following the infusion of $776 million into the state budget for teacher salaries statewide. Washington lawmakers added the funding to help settle a nearly decade-long legal battle over public school funding known as McCleary, a school-finance case in which the Washington Supreme Court found that the state was underfunding the K-12 school system in 2012.

The state lawmakers’ plan to resolve the McCleary lawsuit sought to end a reliance on local property taxes to fund basic education. As a result of the settlement, SPS will now only be able to collect $2,500 per student annually of the voter-approved local education levy, compared to $4,000 in previous years.

In an August budget update, SPS officials cited the lawmakers’ plan to settle the McCleary lawsuit as the cause for a projected budget shortfall of $43.8 million in the 2019-2020 school year, $55.7 million the following year, and $68.1 million in the 2021-2022 school year. In order to fund staff pay raises, the district “will need to make reductions across the organization including staff and student services and programs,” SPS officials wrote in an Aug. 28 email to Seattle Weekly.

Yet some Seattle educators maintain that the city’s rising cost of living outpaces the increased wages. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we’re only giving a 10.5 percent raise increase, because doing so will not allow us to retain or recruit good educators in Seattle in comparison to other districts in the region,” Connor Lee, a special education assistant at Louisa Boren Stem K-8, told Seattle Weekly on Sep. 4.

Under the new contract, SPS teachers’ salaries will range between $56,947 and $111,322, while the current contract offers between $50,604 and $100,763. Meanwhile, Shoreline’s union secured salaries ranging from $62,088 to $120,234, and teachers on Bainbridge Island negotiated to earn between $53,905 and $105,096, according to statewide teachers’ union Washington Education Association (WEA) data.

Shortly after educators approved the contract late Saturday afternoon, Lee wrote Seattle Weekly in a text message that he voted an “enthusiastic no” for the bargaining agreement. He added that the majority of union members who approved the contract decided to “take this and try to push for more in January, pressuring Olympia to lift the levy lid.”

Some union members also argued that substitute health care should be guaranteed in the new contract. If approved by the School Board, substitute teachers will only qualify for health care if they sub at one school for 45 continuous days. Toby de Luca has been a certified substitute teacher in Seattle for seven years, but he currently doesn’t have health insurance because he subs in various schools throughout the district. “The school district can’t function without substitutes,” de Luca told Seattle Weekly on Aug. 28.

Despite some of the educators’ concerns about the contract as it stands, the School Board voiced their approval in a statement released on Saturday: “These new investments will help ensure many students in Seattle receive the educational supports they deserve,” School Board President Leslie Harris said. “I am so proud of our educators and staff for building a contract that is student centered. We look forward to joining with our staff, families and students to work with the Legislature for full funding of public education.”

More in News & Comment

Boeing says decision on new airplane will come this year

With the 737 Max crisis far from over, there was speculation that a 797 decision might be delayed.

State high court upholds $1,000 fines on ‘faithless electors’

They signed pledges to back their party’s nominee, Clinton, in 2016, but then voted for Colin Powell.

Pow! Bam! Inslee delivers a one-two punch of executive power

Governor shifted $175M to culverts and vetoed a sentence he said threatened funding for transit.

Self-driving cars: Heaven or hell?

Depending on factors, traffic and environmental impacts could become better or worse.

King County’s $5 million derelict boat problem

When a boat sinks, it costs a lot to bring it up, with millions being spent since 2003 on removals.

Ashley Hiruko/illustration
Susan’s quest for ‘justice’ and the civil legal system dilemma

While citizens have the right to an attorney in criminal cases, they’re not afforded the same rights in civil litigation.

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn sent a letter to the FBI asking for them to help investigate Allan Thomas (pictured), who is under investigation for stealing more than $400,000 of public funds and skirting election laws in an Enumclaw drainage district. Screenshot from King 5 report
King County Council requests report on special districts in wake of fraud allegations

Small, local special districts will face more scrutiny following Enumclaw drainage district case.

The Marquee on Meeker Apartments, 2030 W. Meeker St. in Kent, will feature 492 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail. The first phase of 288 apartments is expected to be completed in early 2020. Developers are targeting people in their 20s and 30s to rent their high-end, urban-style apartments. Steve Hunter/staff photo
Housing study pokes holes in conventional wisdom

High construction and land costs will incentivize developers to build luxury units.

File photo
Eviction reform passed by state Legislature

Tenant protections included longer notices and more judicial discretion.

Most Read