Seattle teachers make signs at Judkins Park on Monday, in advance of a possible strike this week. Teachers in Seattle have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike as contract talks continue on the eve of the new school year. Seattle Education Association President Jennifer Matter announced Tuesday that 95% of ballots returned by the union’s membership favored going on strike absent an agreement with Seattle Public Schools. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times via AP)

Seattle teachers make signs at Judkins Park on Monday, in advance of a possible strike this week. Teachers in Seattle have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike as contract talks continue on the eve of the new school year. Seattle Education Association President Jennifer Matter announced Tuesday that 95% of ballots returned by the union’s membership favored going on strike absent an agreement with Seattle Public Schools. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times via AP)

Seattle cancels 1st day of school as teachers OK strike

Wednesdays first day of school canceled after teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools canceled Wednesday’s first day of school after teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.

Seattle Education Association President Jennifer Matter announced Tuesday that 95% of ballots returned by the union’s membership favored going on strike absent an agreement with Seattle Public Schools. Contract talks continued.

“No one wants to strike,” Matter said. “But SPS has given us no choice. We can’t go back to the way things have been.”

The district said in an email to parents that it was “optimistic the bargaining teams will come to a positive solution for students, staff, and families.”

Districts around the country have faced labor challenges as the pandemic put extraordinary stress on teachers and students alike. An infusion of federal stimulus money has helped stabilize school district budgets, and teachers unions have sought to improve pay, resources and and working conditions after a difficult few years.

High inflation, a national teacher shortage and the goodwill teachers earned from their pandemic-schooling efforts are all bolstering union efforts, said Bradley Marianno, an assistant professor of education policy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“By all measures, school budgets actually look pretty good right now,” Marianno said. “So as teachers union contracts are expiring, they’re looking for new deals that essentially send more funding to teachers and more funding to students.”

School in the Seattle suburb of Kent was supposed to start Aug. 25 but has been delayed as teachers there strike.

Teachers in Columbus — Ohio’s largest school district — last week ended a brief strike, agreeing on a package that included 4% raises, includes plans for building improvements, reduced class sizes and innovative paid leave benefits.

In Denver, marathon bargaining sessions resulted last week in tentative agreement for an 8.7% raise for educators, a higher salary for first-year teachers, and more money from the district for health insurance costs.

Teachers in Minneapolis, Chicago and Sacramento walked out earlier this year before securing new contracts.

In Seattle, the school district has offered pay raises of an additional 1% above the 5.5% cost-of-living increase set by state lawmakers — far less than the union says it wants — plus one-time bonuses for certain teachers, including $2,000 for third-year Seattle teachers earning an English language or dual-language endorsement.

The union says it is opposing the district’s efforts to eliminate staffing ratios for special education students, saying that will mean more work for general education teachers and special education teachers alike. The union also says the district’s proposals would make general education teachers more responsible for supporting multilingual students.

In a video released by the union, speech language pathologist Julie Salazar said she voted to authorize the strike because caseloads for her and other special education staff are too high.

“We can’t serve our kids well and everybody knows it,” she said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
COVID, monkeypox levels down

State says prevention efforts will continue.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
State employees likely to get 1K bonuses for COVID booster

Under a tentative deal state employees would get $1,000 bonuses for receiving a COVID-19 booster shot.

FILE - Then-Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz addresses a news conference in Seattle, on Sept. 2, 2020. Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell has named Diaz as his pick for permanent chief of the Seattle department. Harrell on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022,  announced his intent to appoint Diaz, who has served as interim police chief since 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Seattle mayor appoints Adrian Diaz as city’s police chief

Diaz has served as interim police chief since September 2020.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Human remains wash ashore, possibly from floatplane crash

A female torso found near Sequim could be connected to a floatplane crash near Whidbey Island.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle teachers approve new contract following strike

Teachers in Seattle have approved a new, three-year contract following a strike.

X
West Seattle Bridge reopened Saturday night

After 908 days without a high-rise bridge, the drivers and passengers of West Seattle regained seven road lanes.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Monkeypox cases declining in WA, outbreak trajectory unclear

The drop in infections statewide is directly linked to the drop in cases in King County.

Guillermo Carvajal, a member of the support staff at Northgate Elementary School in Seattle, and Erin Carroll, an occupational therapist there, picket outside the building on the third day of a strike by the Seattle Education Association on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. The union and Seattle Public Schools continued negotiating over issued that include pay and support for special needs students. It remained unclear how long the strike might last. (AP Photo/Gene Johnson)
Tentative deal reached to end Seattle teachers strike

Seattle Public Schools said late Monday it had reached a tentative agreement with the union for teachers.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Floatplane wreckage located in Mutiny Bay

Wreckage of a floatplane that crashed into Mutiny Bay last week has been located on the seafloor.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Body of Whidbey Island plane crash victim identified

A body found near the site of a floatplane crash in Mutiny Bay has been identified as 29-year-old Gabby Hanna.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Actress Megan Hilty says sister was on floatplane that crashed

The Broadway and TV star’s sister Lauren Hilty was among those killed in a floatplane crash off Whidbey Island.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
Washington Supreme Court OKs virtual life term for teen

This comes one year after the court ruled virtual life sentences were unconstitutional for teenage killers.