What are the issues?
The SEA and the district are at odds over several issues.
The union is unhappy with the district's half-hour extension of the work day for elementary school teachers because it would not result in extra classroom time for students.
The union and district are also clashing over whether to require the use of students' state test scores in teacher evaluations. The last contract required that state and district standardized test scores be used as part of the teacher evaluation process for teachers of the tested subjects: reading and math.
While district officials say using state test scores in teacher evaluations is a valuable part of the contract they bargained with teachers three years ago, Knapp said the landscape for teachers and students is entirely different today. "The goalposts have changed significantly from three years ago," he said. "State law has changed, federal requirements are in flux with the US Department of Education, Common Core standards are here and the new Smarter Balanced assessments that come along with them are being piloted this year," Knapp said.
The union and district are also still clashing over compensation. Knapp said the district's latest offer would give teachers a two percent pay raise for each of the next two years, which the union calls insufficient.
The SEA Representative Assembly will consider the district's latest offer at a meeting Friday afternoon, and make a recommendation to its members regarding whether or not to support the offer. The general membership is scheduled to vote on the district's offer Monday. Knapp said he is not optimistic.
From the district:
We are committed to providing a fair and competitive wage that compares favorably with other districts in the region. Our proposal includes a 4% salary increase over the next two years. In addition, we are fully restoring a 1.3% salary reduction that was mandated by the state legislature.
No class size increase:
We have removed our proposal to increase class size. Despite our capacity management challenges, class size will not be increasing in this contract. We listened to our educators’ concerns around the importance of keeping our classrooms as small as possible.
During negotiations SPS and SEA jointly developed an improved service delivery model for students with special needs. This model will better serve students and increase compliance with state and federal requirements. Students will have the supports necessary to access the general education curriculum in the least restrictive environment possible. There will be additional supports and professional development for all teachers throughout the district.
Student Support Services:
Our proposal makes a significant investment in additional staff such as psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, speech pathologists and nurses. These staff members provide important support services to students. The addition of more of these individuals to the teaching team will contribute to closing the achievement gap.
Length of work day:
We have proposed a restoration of the working day for elementary school teachers and certificated SEA staff to be a total of 7.5 hours. This additional 30 minutes will provide more time for planning and collaboration around activities such as reviewing the progress of individual students. Our secondary teachers already work a 7.5 hour day. Our proposal would bring our elementary teachers’ work day in line with K-12 teachers in districts across our region.
In 2010, SPS and SEA collectively bargained a new evaluation system. We established a shared definition of effective teaching practice by adopting common standards using the Charlotte Danielson framework. We utilize student growth measures as part of the evaluation process.
Since that time, we have seen gains in student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap. We want to keep the evaluation system in place and maintain the momentum toward our goal of success for every student.
The other item is that the Charter Commission has adopted the rules that guide selection of charter schools for Washington State. I attended yesterday's meeting in Everett and it was quite the slog through all the input/rule tweaking. It is gratifying and refreshing to speak before a group that seems to listen. In my remarks to them, I noted that the charter lawsuit has been assigned a court and judge and that it was truly in everyone's best interests if this matter is settled sooner rather than later because of the ramifications to many people throughout our state.
To their credit, they listened to input as I recognized several of the issues that I had raised to the Commission.
I am pleased to say that charter applicants are asked to file a notice of intent prior to their application which is a basic form about who they are and what type of school focus they are trying to achieve.
One item I pointed out would be fair and useful to all is whether they are filing as a "new" charter or a "conversion" charter. This is part of the form now.
No applicant is required to file this letter but I think there might be some degree of suspicion if they do not. The Charter Commission wants this just so they know - as possibly the sole entity receiving charter application if Spokane does not receive their okay as a charter authorizer for their district - how many applications are coming in.
The Charter Commission has to schedule a public meeting for each charter applicant and convene a charter application review group to review each applicant. Basically, they just want to know what's coming. As well, school communities, I believe, have the right to know that their school may be a target of a takeover by a charter applicant. No skulking around behind anyone's back, gathering signatures on a petition.
Per the hearing, I had asked if community members could ask questions and this was left unsaid. I don't know if charter applicants can simply refuse to answer questions (and leave the community to just make comments on their plan) but I suspect that again, it would reflect poorly on any applicant that won't answer questions.
They seem to have narrowed the decision of their Executive Director down to a candidate from Oregon (they had an Executive Session on it) but it is unclear when any announcement may be made.
On a personal note, best wishes to Commissioner Trish Dziko who started the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and runs the acclaimed TAF Academy in Federal Way for children of color. She was married to her long-time partner, Jill Dziko, on Tuesday.