SEATTLE – School is expected to resume Thursday for Seattle’s 53,000 students after teachers who have been on strike for a week reached a tentative agreement with Washington state’s largest school district.
The union’s board of directors and representative assembly voted Tuesday evening to end the strike and urged the 5,000 members to approve the three-year agreement. The strike will be suspended until the union’s full membership votes on the deal Sunday.
The Seattle Education Association says teachers will be back on the job Wednesday and the district is preparing for school to resume Thursday, Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Stacy Howard said.Union President Jonathan Knapp said earlier that the agreement addresses major sticking points around pay, testing, student equity, teacher evaluations and the length of the school day.
The walkout that began Sept. 9 delayed the start of school in Washington state’s largest district. The sides hammered out a deal early Tuesday following an overnight bargaining session, but teachers remained on the picket line as they waited to learn specifics of the deal.
“We are eager to open schools, welcome students and begin learning,” district Superintendent Larry Nyland said in a statement.
Teachers, substitutes and support staff complained that living expenses have become unaffordable as the city’s high-paid technology industry booms and they have gone six years without a cost-of-living increase. The district provided raises totaling 8 percent out of local levy money in that time.
School librarian Sean Harvey picketed Tuesday outside Loyal Heights Elementary, saying he and his colleagues want to go back to work but “it isn’t over until it’s over.”
Several hundred parents, children and other supporters waved signs and chanted as they walked nearly 2 miles from Seattle’s Pioneer Square to school district headquarters Tuesday in a previously arranged march to support teachers.
“I’m really ready for school. It’s been boring,” said Tyler Simpson, a senior at Nova High School who joined the march. “I stand by teachers. They should get raises.”
The Seattle City Council also threw its support behind the striking educators, passing a resolution Monday recognizing the union.
Pay has been a big sticking point.
Teacher salaries in Seattle range from about $44,000 to more than $86,000, depending on experience and education.
This year, facing a court order to increase spending on education, lawmakers came up with money for new teachers and supplies. Some $37 million of that will go to Seattle.
Parent Heather Dachary joined the picket line at that school Tuesday with her two children and said she supported teachers.
“I really want my kids back in school, but I want it done fairly,” she said.