Seattle Teachers Strike Puts 53,000 Students in Limbo

Negotiations are to resume Saturday to iron out disputes over teacher pay and other issues. The city’s public schools have been closed for the first three days of the new academic year.

School’s still out for the summer in Seattle, where a teachers strike is keeping 53,000 students out of their classrooms. But negotiations resuming Saturday may get teachers back to work and kids back to learning soon.

More than 5,000 teachers walked out on what would have been the first day of school, Sept. 9, over contract disputes about pay as well as student testing, evaluations, workloads and student equity issues.

Officials from the teachers union, Seattle Education Association, and the district, Seattle Public Schools, had met separately with state mediators.

Late Friday both said negotiations would resume Saturday.

The district says the strike is costing it $100,000 a day and the school year likely will be extended next June to make up for the days lost to the labor action.

Seattle’s nearly 100 schools will remain closed until further notice, and no court action to force teachers back to work is planned, the district says.

The pay proposals from each side are complicated by how much salary money comes from Washington state support and how much comes from Seattle taxpayers.

Teachers seek a 5 percent raise this school year and 5.5 percent next year, the Seattle Times reported. In addition, teachers would receive 4.8 percent over two years from the state, a cost-of-living adjustment applied only to the state’s contribution to teacher pay, which in Seattle is about 75 percent of the total.

The district is offering to raise teacher salaries by 2 percent this year, 3.2 percent next year and 4 percent in 2017-18, the Times reported. The state-approved cost-of-living adjustment would be in addition to that. A longer workday would go into effect in the third year.

The top-earning teacher in Seattle last year got $121,240, KUOW public radio reported. However, most teachers don’t earn nearly that much. New teachers in Seattle started at $44,372 last year, making it tough to live in the pricey city where they work. Seattle teachers with eight years of experience and a master’s degree earned roughly $64,000.

The U.S. average public school teacher salary for 2013–14, the latest figure available, was $56,610, according to the National Education Association. Average salaries by state ranged from $76,409 in New York to $40,023 in South Dakota.

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Stacy Johnson

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