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Back to school: Here are the teacher contract negotiations to watch

Back-to-school season is here but the return to the classroom was uncertain as some educators in western Washington fought for higher wages and more.

SEATTLE — Back-to-school season is here, but the return to the classroom was either been delayed or potentially delayed for some districts as educators in western Washington fought for higher wages, smaller classroom sizes and more manageable workloads.

Seattle Public Schools

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) reached a tentative agreement with educators on contract negotiations on Monday. On Tuesday, the teachers union voted to suspend the strike.

School will start Sept. 14.

In a statement, SPS said they are excited to welcome students back for the school year and would provide an update on the start of school on Tuesday afternoon. 

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Educators have been on strike since Sept. 7, which was supposed to be the first day of school for approximately 49,000 students in the district.

“We should all be proud of what we accomplished and what we stood up for: student supports and respect for educators,” the SEA said in a statement Monday.

Kent School District

The union representing teachers in Kent approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the Kent School District, ending a strike that began on Aug. 25.

Classes at most schools began on Sept. 8, two weeks after they were scheduled to start. The first day of kindergarten is expected to be Sept. 13.

The Kent Education Association previously posted on Facebook Wednesday that the union reached a tentative agreement with the district “in the wee hours of the morning.”

Highlights of the agreement include:

  • Additional training and collaboration time
  • Improved incentives to encourage the district to: fill paraeducator positions, keep class sizes smaller, keep caseloads manageable for occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists
  • New wage ranges: 7% increase in the 2022-23 school year and 1% inflationary increase funded by the state

Port Angeles Public Schools

A strike appears to have been avoided within Port Angeles Public Schools after a tentative agreement was reached, according to the district website.

The Port Angeles Education Association called for a strike to begin Tuesday if a contract is not agreed upon in time.

School is scheduled to start on time on Tuesday, Sept. 6, according to the district.

Eatonville School District

The Eatonville Education Association (EEA) and the school district reached a tentative contract agreement on Sept. 14. The agreement must still be ratified to allow a vote by union members before being sent to the school board for formal approval.

The first day of school has a tentative start date of Sept. 16 for students in first through 12th grade. Preschool students tentatively start Sept. 19. Kindergarten tentatively starts Sept. 21.

The tentative agreement comes after six days of picketing by educators.

The EEA said smaller class sizes are a top priority. There are about 1,800 students enrolled in the Eatonville School District.

Tumwater School District

The Tumwater Association of Paraprofessionals (TAP) reached a tentative agreement with the Tumwater School District Thursday evening.

The tentative agreement comes two days after union members voted to authorize a strike if an agreement was not reached with the district by Sept. 11.

TAP represents 90 paraprofessionals in the Tumwater School District. The union said members will hold a general membership meeting and vote on ratifying the new agreement. The school board will also have to approve the new contract for the agreement to be official.

“We are so happy to have a tentative agreement and to continue supporting our students so they can be successful learners,” said TAP Co-Presidents Jen Monson and Megan Ready. “It’s nice to know that the district is willing to show paraprofessionals we are valued for our important role in students’ and parents’ lives.”

The first day of school was on Sept. 7. Paras have been working without a contract with the district, according to the union.

The union said the district currently has 25 vacant para positions.

North Thurston Public Schools

North Thurston Public Schools and the North Thurston Education Association reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years on Monday.

The ratification of the agreement is expected to be complete by the end of September. Classes are expected to start on schedule.

The tentative agreement comes after North Thurston teachers picketed over workloads and increased pay in August. 

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