'Progress' but no deal to avoid Seattle teacher's strike

KING 5's John Langeler reports.

SEATTLE - Teachers in the state's largest district may be about to hit the picket line for the first time in 30 years.


On Monday, both sides acknowledged there had been progress in weekend negotiations, but still appear to be far apart on issues surrounding teacher pay. The district agreed over the weekend to preserve 30 minutes of recess time and make certain guarantees on substitute pay; however, the district has declined to match the union's request for double digit raises over a three-year period.

It could mean the 5,000-member union will strike Wednesday morning and delay the start of the school year. The union voted unanimously to do so last week, unless the two sides settle on a new contract.

Kathy Saxon, a West Seattle teacher, believes the district should make up for failed promises of the past, and cost-of-living increases. After all, she says, pay prompted her to move to Shoreline and make the 17-mile commute to Denny International School.

"There are a lot of people who don't live in the city of Seattle; one of the teachers at my school lives in Edmonds," she said.

Will there be a strike? Saxon says she doesn't know.

"I have no idea, and really wish I did," she said. "I wake up in the middle of the night and I can't get back to sleep thinking about it."

Meanwhile, parent groups are expressing frustration at being left out of important decisions that could impact their student's lives.  Specifically, two key items at the bargaining table, set recess times and possible expansion of the school day, are being negotiated behind closed doors.

"Again and again and again, as a parent, you often feel that you're sidelined and it's very difficult to feel that you're listened to," said Ramona Hattendorf, parent of two Seattle Public School students and vice-president of Community and Parents for Public Schools.

"The frustration of not being able to engage with the system is shared by many parents," continued Hattendorf, who also formerly worked with the state and Seattle Parent Teacher Associations.

Sunday, both sides announced a deal on recess.

"Some things that were discussed in bargaining haven't had the chance for parent input," said new Seattle PTSA President Cassandra Johnston, "We're always advocating for parents early in the decision making process."

Johnston said she has spoken with leaders of the Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools, and remained upbeat.

"They're doing a better job of engaging the families and communicating with families," she said, "But they would say too we have work to do."

A group of parents that support the union have started a petition on Change.org demanding teachers are paid a fair wage.  Others have been serving union members soup at meetings, again as support.

If teachers go on strike, the City of Seattle says it's prepared to absorb some of the day care needs. The Seattle Parks Department unveiled a plan to house up to 850 students in full day care, and will house students who are currently enrolled in pre- and after-school care for the entire day in 16 different locations.




Resource links:

Seattle Schools Child Care contingency plan (pdf)

Seattle Schools statement (pdf)

KING 5's John Langeler contributed to this report


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