Seattle teachers vote to officially end a strike that delayed the start of the school year




CNN

The Seattle Education Association voted Tuesday afternoon to call off the strike and return to classrooms starting Wednesday.

The vote comes after Seattle Public Schools earlier announced a tentative contract agreement with the teachers union amid a strike that has delayed the start of the school year by five days as they negotiate improvements to classroom size, pay and health services.

“Our strike shows the power that educators and the community have when we come together and demand what our students need,” said SEA President Jennifer Matter. “We should all be proud of what we’ve accomplished here for our students and our schools.”

Students will have to make up the five missed days during the school year, the district announced in a statement.

“We are excited to welcome students and educators back into our classrooms to begin this new school year. We are excited about our mission (our moral imperative) of high-quality teaching and learning,” said Superintendent Brent Jones.

The strike began Wednesday, the first day of school for about 50,000 students in the Seattle school district.

The action comes as schools across the country face teacher shortages, increasingly frustrated underpaid and underpaid teachers, teaching in overcrowded classrooms and difficult conditions made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Seattle, educators went on strike to demand more support for students, including interpretation and translation services for those receiving multilingual education, and improved special education staffing ratios, according to the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 6,000 employees.

“We are educators. We do not call much experience. It’s not what we want to do. We want to be in our schools with our students,” said teacher Ellen Santarelli in a Facebook video. “However, to get what our students need … we are willing to go outside of our comfort zones, thousands of steps outside of our comfort zones.”

The union also claimed higher wages and more support and controls to prevent educator burnout, including limiting some class sizes.

Details of the agreement will not be released until it is confirmed, but SEA said the contract maintains Special Education ratios and improves them in some areas, adds core mental health staff to all schools and increases pay annually.

The union announced that the vote to confirm the provisional agreement will be held this week.

Educators sat on pickets for days, holding signs that read “make mental health a priority,” “fund essential supports” and “students should be able to see a nurse every school day.”

Students did not go to school Tuesday in another district in Washington state (Ridgefield School District) as bargaining teams continue their months-long negotiations.

Ridgefield teachers went on strike Friday, demanding more mental health support, improvements for special education students and a better student intervention program in the district, which enrolls about 3,850 students near the Oregon border.

They joined thousands of other educators across the country who have also taken to the pickets in recent weeks to negotiate better contracts and improved classroom conditions.

Math teacher Royce Christensen picketed outside Roosevelt High School in Seattle on Wednesday.

Last week, another public school in Washington state – the Kent School District – ended talks that had similarly delayed the school year since it started in July.

Kent teachers, represented by the Kent Education Association, ended their strike after reaching an agreement with the school district.

Two weeks earlier, a Columbus, Ohio, teachers union ended a day-long strike after reaching an agreement on classroom conditions and teacher pay that guaranteed classrooms would be climate-controlled by the start of the 2025-2026 school year. reduce class sizes.

Teachers in Ohio’s largest school district complained that in some cases students had to study in classrooms without functional air conditioning.