Seattle teachers went on strike for the first time in 30 years Wednesday after a last ditched effort failed to resolve a dispute between the teachers union and school board officials.
At the center of the dispute is wages, teacher evaluations, testing and unpaid overtime. The Seattle Education Association (SEA) is accusing the school board of being unreasonable. Last week, members of the union voted unanimously to strike if the school board failed to negotiate an agreement by the time classes started Wednesday. According to the union, the school board wants teachers to work additional unpaid hours on top of already inadequate wages.
“Our SEA Bargaining Team demonstrated patience and near superhuman endurance over this Labor Day Weekend and throughout the day today,” SEA President Jonathan Knapp said in a statement. “In the end, the school board just never gave them enough to reach a tentative agreement.”
Negotiations began in May. The school board did offer a last minute deal but it was rejected. The SEA noted it couldn’t take the deal seriously. School officials offered a 9 percent wage increase over three years but the union wants a 10.5 percent increase over two years.
“Bargaining teams for both sides have worked hard over the past months and practically round the clock in recent days putting in marathon hours over the Labor Day weekend,” Seattle Public Schools said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We are hopeful talks can resume and agreement can be reached to allow our students to start school.”
The strike highlights a statewide issue on education funding. As NBC News reports, the Washington Supreme Court in 2012 ruled lawmakers have failed to adequately fund education. Currently the state is being sanctioned $100,000 a day to resolve the issue. Teachers in Pasco have also been striking despite a court order telling them to stop.
A spokesman for the Washington Education Association, however, noted the strikes were mainly about local issues and not the larger issue of state funding.
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