By Dahlia Bazzaz / The Seattle Times
SETTLE — Seattle public school teachers and classified employees would get another double-digit raise over the next three years under a new draft contract given initial approval by the teachers union this weekend.
Seattle Public Schools management and labor agreed on the terms of the contract late Saturday, skirting the suspense that surrounded last year’s negotiations, when the union authorized a strike just days before school began to speed up a deal. The union’s members will vote on the contract at a general membership meeting in downtown Seattle on Tuesday.
“It should be an easy vote,” said Kate Eads, a member of the Seattle Education Association’s bargaining team. “There’s not a big drive for anything that’s missing.”
The draft contract includes an 11.1% raise over three years for teachers, according to a summary of the new deal emailed to union members Sunday evening. Classified employees of the school district, which include paraeducators and instructional assistants — paid significantly less on average — would receive a slightly higher raise of 12.1% during the same period.
The tentative agreement also secures funding for 10 school counselors, three nurses and two family support workers who work with low-income students. In addition, it requires the district to provide hundreds of thousands in funds for stipends and costs related to expanding teams of educators that help respond to racial bias at around half of Seattle’s schools.
The raises provided in the tentative agreement are a far cry from what the district had originally said it could afford, about 2%. But pressure from the union — including public demonstrations and an audit of the district’s budgets and spending —appeared to shift the dynamic over the weekend. If the union’s members and the School Board approve the deal, the salary range for Seattle teachers would be roughly $62,000 to $124,000 by 2022, the year the contract would end.
The new range would surpass those of districts like Everett and Shoreline, where experienced teachers can take home around $120,000 per year.
Matching the salaries of those districts to keep teachers from getting priced out of the city was a rallying cry both this year and last year, when Seattle teachers received a 10.5% raise.
The district did not respond to questions sent Sunday morning about the total cost of the deal, or how it would afford the increases. School Board President Leslie Harris did not return a call for comment.
Eads acknowledged that the money required to implement this contract involves the district taking a “risk.” She said the district’s concessions came with the warning that there could be budget cuts and layoffs like the ones the district issued over the past year.
In its latest budget, the largest ever, the district estimates it will draw down more than half of its $116 million in cash reserves in part to pay for the expansion of state-mandated health benefits, and the raises that it awarded last year.
The district sent layoff notices in the spring to 10 teachers and counselors, and six assistant principals. To make up for a projected enrollment decline, the district also cut individual school budgets, transferring teachers to growing schools in some cases instead of hiring new staff. It also cut 2.5 positions from its central office.
“Both SPS and the SEA want competitive salaries for all of our staff,” wrote district spokesman Tim Robinson in an email last week. “But any increase must be balanced with spending within our means.”
Michael Tamayo, the union’s vice president, said his team wouldn’t have asked for something the district couldn’t afford. It’s a matter of priorities, he said: The district claims it has a deficit every year but still finds the money.
“The union has a strong interest in keeping the district solid,” he said. “The union will push hard to mitigate any staffing displacements.”
The agreement also includes several measures aimed at improving the hiring and retention of teachers of color in the district, including mandatory professional development for principals on the topic of educator diversity, and a provision that would require the district to consider the racial demographics of its student and teacher population when making layoff decisions.