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First day of school in Seattle delayed as educators go on strike

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The Washington Education Association, which represents about 6,000 employees of Seattle Public Schools, is set to begin its strike at 7:30 am Wednesday, the same day school was to start for the district’s 50,000 students.

The WEA said it’s working with the school district to reach a contract agreement that “brings us back to the classrooms as fast as possible.”

“Educators want to be in the classrooms with their students and need SPS to give those students the supports and adult attention they deserve,” the WEA said in a statement.

“Seattle Public Schools respects our educators and staff. We are optimistic the bargaining teams will come to a positive solution for students, staff, and families,” the district said in a message to parents Tuesday. “Negotiations with SEA are ongoing. We are looking forward to starting school and welcoming students and staff for the 2022-23 school year.”

The union said its priorities in negotiations include additional support for Special Education and Multilingual Education programs, workload and class size control to prevent educator burnout and better pay to help staff live in the community they serve.

Seattle Public Schools will not start school as planned Wednesday after the Washington Education Association voted to strike.
“93% of us are working more than our assigned or contract hours, and 25% of us are working 10+ additional hours a week,” the SEA wrote on its website. “When our jobs require work outside of contract hours, such as mandatory committee meetings, SPS must acknowledge it by removing other tasks or recognizing it with additional pay.”
The strike comes amid similar actions in other school districts across the US, including the nearby Kent School District, which sits in a suburb outside Seattle.
The Kent Education Association went on strike late last month, also delaying the start of the school year. As of Tuesday afternoon, school had not started, according to the school district’s website.
Also last month, teachers and staff in Columbus, Ohio, went on strike, forcing classes to be held online until a resolution was reached.
In March, educators in Minneapolis Public Schools went on strike but the impasse ended after 21 consecutive days of negotiation.
Across the US, teachers protested and won.  Now some accuse lawmakers of retaliating

In Seattle, SEA President Jennifer Matter said the group’s membership voted overwhelmingly in support of the strike.

“We had a really difficult decision to make, and believe me, that decision was not taken lightly on whether or not we would authorize a strike,” Matter said. “Because no one wants to strike. It’s not something that people just choose but SPS has given us no choice because, again, we can’t go back to the way things have been. We need to fight for something better.”

Following the union vote, SPS said in a statement it’s “committed to negotiating on a new contract with our educators.”

“SEA agreed on Monday to meet with a mediator to help guide our conversations,” Beverly Redmond, the assistant superintendent of public affairs at the district, said in a statement.

In notifying families that schools would be closed Wednesday, the district noted meal sites will be open during the day and that it is working on childcare resources.

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