Monday, August 26, 2013

SEA Rejects District Offer

From SPS Communications:

We value the contributions, skills, and dedication that our educators bring to Seattle Public Schools’ students on a daily basis. Their leadership and passion drive the success of our district and community.

While we are disappointed that members of the Seattle Education Association did not approve our proposal, we are hopeful that we will reach an agreement that is in the best interests of students prior to the start of school.

We are pleased that we have reached common ground on many contract topics with a few items remaining to be resolved. We remain committed to the negotiation process. We are confident the bargaining teams will be able to craft solutions that keep student success the priority and meet the needs of both sides.

I want to recognize and thank the Seattle Education Association and our district bargaining team for their efforts and hard work.


Anonymous said...

I would like to hear from teachers as to the why on the no vote. I'll say in advance I am more pro-teacher so no trolling. Just want to understand.

Also, is there a scheduled vote before the calendar start of school?


Anonymous said...


SPS has been fairly reasonable and responsive in some areas. They did take class size increases off the table which was the right thing to do. In other respects the opposite is true.

There are 3 important sticking points that led to the overwhelming no vote.

1. I think the biggest problem is the insistence on using MSP scores for teacher evaluations. Under state law every classroom teacher in Washington has to show student growth. This is totally inclusive. If you teach kids, you have to present multiple forms of evidence that your students learned. Teachers set goals and determine how they will measure whether the students met those goals. This is totally reasonable and I imagine most teachers accept this as a part of our evaluations. I personally have no issue with it.

I do however have an issue with what SPS is asking. In addition to the state requirement, teachers in Seattle who teach MSP tested subjects would have another student growth score based on the MSP. This requirement only affects some teachers. Furthermore, when we adopt the Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced test (new MSP) next year, we have to start the process all over, since looking at growth from one set of standards to a new set is statistically ridiculous. Think about all the time, money, and resources that have to be used for a quantitative measure that will only be relevant for one year. Is this the best use of taxpayer money? How does this benefit our students? Why is Seattle the only district in all of Washington demanding this?

#2 SPS wants to extend the elementary school day by 30 minutes. This would be a wonderful idea if it meant 30 extra minutes with our students, but that is not the case. The kids still get on the bus at the same time, but the teachers would have to stay an extra 30 minutes. The truth is most teachers stay several hours after the contractual day, but that is by choice. There is no additional compensation or any real rationale for this extra 30 minutes.

#3 Class size matters, and so do case loads. Nurses, school psychologists, speech therapists, and other specialists have enormous case loads and are not able to give their students the service they need and deserve. This has been an issue for years. There needs to be reasonable limits on these case loads to ensure that students are served well. Just for context, the district is moving towards a ratio of one nurse for every 1000 students.

Finally I want to address compensation. It seems like the district can always find the money for expensive consultants and highly paid executive directors, yet can't get enough desks into classrooms or give its employees a meaningful raise. The 2% raise that the district is offering is so small it barely counts as a raise. Please understand that this is 2% of the lowest base salary on the scale (about $32,000). I'm not a math teacher, but I know that translates into $600 a year before taxes. For me, that's a lot less than what I spend out of pocket on supplies, books, and snacks for my students every year. To be fair, the SEA's counter offer of 2.5% is not worth fussing over.

It's been a long time since we got a raise. For the last 2 years we took a pay cut, but money isn't really what's at stake here. I think what teachers want most is respect. Every year we are asked to do more with less and we find a way to do it. We know that our working conditions and our students' learning conditions are one and the same. We are surrounded by institutional dysfunction and yet still do our very best every day for our students.

After this no vote both parties will go back to the bargaining table. If all goes well, there will be a tentative agreement that we will vote on next Tuesday. Despite my pseudonym, I am optimistic about how Banda and the Board will respond. I fully expect to welcome my students on the first day of school.

-dismayed teacher

mirmac1 said...

Thx dismayed teacher. I would like to know whether the SEA leadership recommended a no vote.

I look at the class size lead balloon much like MGJ's SERVE bomb; just gamesmanship meant to keep the teachers union off balance. I respect your need to stay on balance, to get more to do more, and to quit wasting millions on non-existent student growth reports. I've been asking for those for six months and have yet to see them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dismayed, thank you for those detailed issues.

#1 - why indeed if it's for one year and then it will all be redone for the new assessments anyway? (It may be about the NCLB waiver but I don't know.)

#2 - I had wondered if teachers would get paid for this extra 30 minutes. Apparently not. Is this for professional development time?

#3 - To me, crazy. Many of these professionals mentioned work with Special Ed students and they already are getting short shrift. 100 special needs students per person?

Step J, I would think that the district and the union will keep at it and hopefully there will be a vote. The contract ends on Saturday so we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Thank you dismayed and Melissa for the additional details. It helps me as a parent to be able to assemble all the pieces.

I do hope the District will be more transparent as to the whys of their demands and stop treating teachers like an endless piggy bank of time and funds.


mirmac1 said...

Interesting about the special ed caseloads. We have heard that 35-45 additional related service providers have been hired in order to unscrew up SpEd and satisfy OSPI. Cuts were made in Dept administration (some positions that are also needed to correct OSPI's findings).

If SPS doesn't want to lose $11M in IDEA funds, they can't screw up again.

Anonymous said...

#2 at our elementary, just depends on the teachers. There are teachers who you know come in early and often stay later. They return your emails and calls. Other teachers are long gone and if your child has a problem in school, good luck. Our school is one of those that raise over 100K each year easily. Teachers get PTA money for classroom supplies. If there's a need for bigger items, even personal ones, the request go into the newsletter and parents will show up with all kinds of stuff.

We all want our teachers to be paid more and it shows in the class gifts to the teachers. Some teachers have after school or summer clubs. Others tutor. Some parents pay $75/hr for reading (dyslexia) tutor. All these things are mutually beneficial. Many parents want smaller class size which is why parents volunteer in the classrooms, lunchroom, and playground. PTA funds help pay for math and reading specialists and playground supervisor. We are pretty lucky as a school community to afford this.

I don't know what teachers do on all those 1/2 days. Is it all PD? The only reason I see for 1/2 hr non contact time would be for teacher collaboration and I wonder why isn't that's good thing? It seems hard for teachers to find time together during the school day. Some kids with IEP, behavioral or learning problems see quite a few professionals besides their grade teacher. If you have colleagues who can't linger after their school day ends, how can you collaborate well?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Curious2, I agree that teacher collaboration IS a good thing but shouldn't they be paid for it? Some argue that many people work more than 40 hours but I think teachers do that in general during the school year.

There's also "lingering" talking and collaborative talking.

I have had my experience with teachers who worked like beavers and those who did not. But you'll find that in many professions.

Anonymous said...

I agree that teacher collaboration IS a good thing but shouldn't they be paid for it?

Are they professionals? Or hourly employees? It seems to me that this collaboration mandate for a half hour isn't really extra, it's what they should have been doing all along... and the good ones always did do it. Now this expectation is explicit. Full time is 8 hours minimum in the real world. And professionals always wind up doing more. Let's move on to something real.

Bad and Good

Anonymous said...

Seattle elementary school days are SHORTED by 30 mins. That's a big deal, and I'm glad the District is asking for it back --- but wait --- WHAT?? SPS IS asking for it but not for classroom time??? WTF! Frankly, why bother asking at all.

I support the teachers, but my perspective does differ. Service providers (speech pathologists, OTs, etc) do have ridiculous case loads. That should be capped. Absolutely. But, so should class sizes (I hate the "we will throw you a couple of bucks and do we can go over the cap thing). That hurts student learning. The teachers should have gotten rid of that, and made a class size lit exactly what it is suppose to be, a class size limit, in order for student learning to be out front and center.

And yes, teachers should be paid more. And, non teachers, like TFA, ought not to be allowed. The exception was intended for true experts who have something extra special to offer, and are passionate to get I front of kids ( I know an MD who taught science for a year because she adores kids and teacher-- took a gigantic pay cut to do this).

RosieReader said...

To make sure I understand one of the issues -- all teachers are subject to the same pay scale, right? And elementary school teachers currently work 1/2 an hour per day less than middle/high school teachers?

If, and only if, the answer is yes to both my assumptions, to me it sounds like the middle/high school teachers are getting the short shrift here. And the fact that the elementary teachers get the same pay for a shorter day is a wrong that shoudl be righted.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac- SEA leadership did recommend a no vote, as did the Representative Assembly (representatives from each building)

Melissa- I'm pretty sure compliance with NCLB waivers would have to happen at the state level. Originally the extra 30 minutes was to be building directed PLC (professional learning community) time which, when done correctly, is a combination of professional development and collaboration. Elementary teachers already spend at least an hour a week in PLCs; an extra 30 minutes a day is way too much. You have to have time to work independently to be able to work collaboratively. Now the extra time would be teacher directed.

Rosie- From what I understand, elementary school days got cut by 30 minutes in the 1970's to save money after the double levy failure. That 30 minutes came out of the students' art, PE, and music time. I wish SPS's proposal was to add 30 minutes back to the student day to restore all that art, music, and PE that was lost. Extending the teachers' day doesn't make sense.

Now, elementary teachers get 30 minutes of prep time per day while secondary teachers get 50-60 minutes. This equalizes the work day. I think it is telling that middle and high school teachers are just as opposed to this extra 30 minutes as the elementary teachers are, which certainly wouldn't be the case if there was a fairness problem.

-dismayed teacher

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Families are receiving emails from the district warning them of a possible teacher's strike.


Anonymous said...

On the SPS website:


The Seattle Education Association (SEA), which represents teachers, rejected the District's latest contract proposal. They plan to meet again on Sept. 3 to vote on whatever the proposal is at that time.

With the start of school on Sept. 4, we are encouraging families to develop back-up plans should Seattle Public Schools not open on time.

We realize the impact a labor strike would have on our families. We are working with child care providers and the City of Seattle to develop options for your students in the event school is not in session on Sept. 4. Those resources, along with other information, will be posted tomorrow at We will send you additional messages as new information is available.

Again, we are working to reach an agreement with teachers, but it is possible that school will not start on Sept. 4. Please visit for additional information.

Thank you for your patience and support during this time.

• Statement from Superintendent Jose Banda regarding SEA vote

Highlights of negotiations with Seattle Education Association
SUPERINTENDENT'S MESSAGE: There is no more important endeavor than the education of our students. I am writing to provide you with an update on negotiations with our labor association partner, Seattle Education Association (SEA). Click on this link for some of the highlights of the Seattle Public Schools proposal to SEA, which includes compensation, no class size increase, special education, student support services, length of work day, and evaluation.


Anonymous said...

It is entirely possible that if they were using the time right, 30 minutes of focused collaborative time at the end of the school day would actually impact student learning more than 30 minutes of more-of-the-same with students in the classroom.

It's called a Professional Learning Community (PLC for short), and it's a way of doing business that transformative for schools.

If the teachers at each grade level have developed common assessments, grade them using common rubrics, then get together to analyze how their students did, they could rapidly identify students who need extra supports and come up with a student-by-student intervention plan. They could then really take it to the next level by analyzing their own practice in relation to that of their colleagues and share amongst themselves what was especially successful and what wasn't.

Schools that apply that model faithfully have posted amazing gains in student growth and student overall achievement. Schools that only do it part way have little to no gains.

But to do it right, you need time. Frequent time. Dedicated time that the team considers sacred.

In a way, the district's proposal is giving elementary teachers exactly that gift of time.

If they used it right, they could change education at the elementary level across the district.

If they used it to all sit in their rooms in isolation, it will be a colossal waste of that precious gift of time.

--PLC Believer

Anonymous said...

2.5% counter offer ????

what is sea good for?????

therapist and ot caseloads??????

What is the o s pi good for?

Signed, honestly