School starts Wednesday in Seattle after weeks of strike

SEATTLE: Classes start on Wednesday in Seattle after a weeks-long teachers’ strike that delayed the start of the new school year.
Public Schools in Seattle and the Seattle Education Association announced Monday evening that it had reached a provisional agreement on a new contract, and after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the district announced that classes would begin Wednesday morning.
The union members voted earlier in the day to suspend the strike pending ratification of the contract. It’s a three-year deal that will maintain the ratio of special education students to support staff, add basic mental health staff in all schools and raise wages above inflation marks, the Seattle Education Association said, though the exact terms are not yet known. announced.
“We should be incredibly proud of what we have achieved together,” the union said on its Twitter feed. “We won a great preliminary agreement and started an important conversation with our community about supporting our students.”
The strike began on September 7, which would be the first day for about 49,000 students in the district. While 95% of voting union members approved the strike, only 57% voted in favor of Tuesday’s resolution to suspend the strike, the union said.
Picketing teachers said their number one concern has been educational and emotional assistance for students, especially those with special needs or learning disabilities exacerbated by the pandemic.
“This has been an incredible effort from both sides, and we put the needs of our students first,” Chief Inspector Brent Jones said in a video message to families.
City teachers have seen a healthy increase since their last strike in 2015, with many earning more than $100,000, thanks in large part to a new funding model for education by the state. The union had said it was mainly focused on bringing in pay increases for its lower-paid members, including teaching assistants and front office staff. Para educators in Seattle Public Schools start at $19 an hour — not nearly enough to live in the city, many say.
The district had sought to increase the amount of time disabled children spend in general education classrooms, as well as eliminate the proportions that dictate how many students can be allocated to each special education professional. The district said it would allow it to focus on student needs rather than fixed staffing ratios, but teachers feared it would mean less support, more caseloads and less time to spend with each student.
Another problem for Seattle Public Schools is declining enrollment. Show projections Washington the state’s largest school district will lose several thousand students over the next few years, leading to significant budget deficits, officials say.
Districts across the country have faced labor challenges as the pandemic puts extraordinary pressure on teachers and students.
Teachers in Minneapolis, Chicago and Sacramento walked out earlier this year before making new appointments.

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