The president of the National Education Association has declared that the public school teachers strike in Seattle is a wonderful development for tens of thousands of students who cannot attend school.
“I’m proud that Seattle educators are standing up for the schools students deserve,” NEA president Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller on Wednesday afternoon.
The striking teachers are deeply concerned about the interests of the 53,000 students who are learning nothing in classrooms this week, Eskelsen García promised.
“There is no stronger voice or advocate for Seattle students than Seattle educators,” the union boss explained. “As educators, student success is at the center of everything we do.”
The strike by the Seattle Education Association officially began on Wednesday morning — the first scheduled day of classes for this academic year. The union broke off negotiations and declared its strike on Tuesday night after months of talks failed to produce a contract.
Approximately 5,000 teachers, secretaries and other employees in Seattle’s taxpayer-funded schools have refused to show up for work.
The union’s grievances are many.
“They are still expecting us to work a longer day without paying for it,” Seattle Education Association spokeswoman Phyllis Campano told local NBC affiliate KING-TV. “It’s just not reasonable.”
Campano warned that the 53,000 students could be in for a very long vacation.
“We will stay out as long as we need to get that done,” she told The Seattle Times.
In addition to teachers’ frustration about working about 30 extra minutes with no extra pay, the host of unresolved contract issues that led to the strike includes salary increases, standardized testing and teacher evaluation methodology.
In her statement, Eskelsen García focused on “ensuring opportunity for every student, regardless of zip code” and “less focus on harmful standardized tests.”(RELATED: OWN IT: ‘ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS’ SIGN Shows Up At NEA-Funded Protest)
Teachers union representatives on the ground in Seattle appear to have a different set of priorities than the NEA chief. They are squarely focused on obtaining more cash.
The Seattle school board has offered an additional $62 million for teachers which would be a 10-percent salary increase over the next two years. The school district has also offered a cost-of-living adjustment.
The Seattle teachers union has demanded $172 million in extra cash — a 16.8 percent pay increase during the same period.
According to Salary.com, Seattle teachers currently bring home a median annual salary of $60,412.
Annual per-capita income in Seattle is $43,237, according to the United States Census Bureau.
The $60,412 median salary figure does not include the teachers’ generous benefits package, which includes health, vision, dental and life insurance as well as tax-sheltered annuity plans.
School district officials and union leaders have reached agreement on some issues including 30 minutes of recess for students in elementary schools.
The work stoppage enters its second day on Thursday. Teachers will once again festoon themselves with red T-shirts and walk picket lines.
NEXT PAGE: Board Members ‘Don’t Seem To Understand The Issues’
Members of the Seattle school board have explained that Seattle does not have enough money to give teachers a 16.8 percent pay increase. Nevertheless, they have expressed a desire to resume negotiations soon.
Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp told the Times he has no plans to resume negotiations unless board members indicate “that they have some new ideas.”
Board members “don’t seem to understand the issues,” he previously told the Seattle newspaper.
“A strike for any reason by District teachers or other personnel is harmful and damaging to the District, our students, and our community,” the school board said in a Sept. 7 resolution.
The school board has authorized superintendent, Larry Nyland to close school buildings to striking teachers. The board has also authorized Nyland to pursue a lawsuit asking a judge to intervene to curtail the strike.
If a judge grants Nyland’s plea for relief, union members will convene for a vote on whether to continue its strike.
Union officials don’t want the school board to go to court. It would be disrespectful to teachers and, somehow, to students, they say.
“It’s disappointing that the school board is grasping at legalistic straws rather than focusing on ways to provide the supports that educators need to be successful with students,” Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp said in a statement obtained by the Times. “We won’t be scared into abandoning our commitment to winning a fair contract.”
Three Seattle City Council members — Kshama Sawant, Nick Licata and John Okamoto — also don’t want the school board to ask a court to intervene in the strike.
“[R]egardless of one’s opinions on the union’s demands, the educators’ democratic right to speak out, organize unions, and go on strike must be defended,” the trio of elected representatives wrote in a letter to the board, according to the Times.
Sawant, the lone socialist on the Seattle City Council, is largely responsible for a city ordinance raising the local minimum wage to $15 per hour for all businesses by 2019. (RELATED: Socialist Seattle City Council Member EVADES Payroll Taxes, Insurance For Staffers)
In the wake of the teachers strike, many Seattle parents are facing tough decisions this week.
“I have to operate when work operates, otherwise I won’t have a job,” Deona Duncan, a single mother of three, told KING-TV.
The last teachers strike in Seattle occurred three decades ago, in 1985.