Seattle Schools to Start Wednesday, Teachers Approve Contract

SEA members inside Benaroya Hall Tuesday night
SEA members inside Benaroya Hall Tuesday night

Seattle teachers voted at 8 p.m. Tuesday night in favor of a contract with their district, Seattle Public Schools (SPS), allowing classrooms to open tomorrow as planned for nearly 50,000 students.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) and SPS, with the help of a mediator, had reached tentative agreement on a new contract just after midnight on Sunday. The agreement was pending approval by union members. An earlier contract, put forth by SPS, had been almost unanimously rejected by union members, who represent virtually every one of Seattle's 95 public schools. The threat of a strike loomed until the yes vote tonight, which ratified a contract that many say struck a middle ground on key issues.

Statement from Superintendent José Banda:

"I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work and dedication in negotiating this agreement. I appreciate each and every one of our staff members, whose work contributes to the academic success of our students. All of us at Seattle Public Schools look forward to welcoming our students and families to a new school year tomorrow."

A key sticking point for many teachers prior to ratifying the cntract had been SPS's desire to tie teacher evaluations to standardized tests, at a time when the District is preparing to implement Common Core standards, without having adapted curricula for these new standards.

According to SEA leadership, other contentious issues included SPS's proposal to extend the elementary school workday for teachers; its refusal to reduce caseloads for school psychologists and other specialized support providers; lack of professional development for classroom assistants and office administrative staff; and teacher pay.

Watch this space for more on the vote tonight.

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