Thursday, September 10, 2015

From Seattle Schools' Side of Things

In the interest of fairness, here's the link to the district's page on the strike.  

Commendations
To address questions about the start of school, the strike and contract negotiations, the district has established a message line. Questions left at 206-252-0207 will be added to the FAQ on this section of the website.

However, there are some points which both sides continue to work toward agreement, including teacher and professional salary. Below is a brief summary of the top issues in the negotiation. Read the negotiation proposals and counter proposals on the Negotiation Proposals webpage.
Testing

SPS and SEA agree that the evaluation process shall recognize strengths, identify areas needing improvement, and provide support for professional growth.
Negotiation Status
Agreed: SPS and SEA have reached agreement.

Recess
We have a letter of agreement that all elementary schools will have a minimum of 30 minutes of recess each day.
Negotiation Status
Agreed: SPS and SEA have reached agreement.

Student Equity and Opportunity Gap
The SEA and the Seattle Public Schools continue to strive for a relationship that is focused on providing the best possible learning environment for students. It is the moral and ethical responsibility and a top priority for Seattle Public Schools to provide equity access and opportunity for every student, and to eliminate racial inequity in our educational and administrative system.
Negotiation Status
Agreed: SPS and SEA have reached agreement.

It will be important to read the contract when it is finished to see exactly how these issues have been ironed out.  That's one thing - parents are always the last to know the details.  What HAS been decided about testing?

Not-So-Great Items (I am always irritated when the truth is hedged or not fully explained as it is not here.)

Talking about the "fiscal health of SPS"

The district is proposing a three-year contract that will cost $29.4 million over the first two years; SEA has proposed a two-year contract that would cost about $84.3 million, more than twice as much over the same period of time.

Yes, but the district doesn't acknowledge that the $62M they offered is not even half of what the SEA had asked for at $172M.  I'm not saying there needs to be a set number to come back with but less than half?

We are receiving $37.2 million in new revenue from the state, but only $9 million of that is unallocated.

It would be great if the district gave the specifics on this. I'm not going to believe them on face value.

Our proposals protect the district budget of about $22 million in rainy-day funds. These rainy day funds would cover about two weeks of expenses in an emergency, are required by the board.

Yes, but what is the minimum requirement?  You'll notice that they didn't say.  The SEA has been complaining for the last couple of years about how high the reserves are and asking why.  Yes, it is important to have a rainy day fund but the growth in the amount of the rainy day fund makes it look like more of a slush fund (especially as more money is expected to come in via McCleary).

SPS elementary students have one of the shortest instructional days in the state at six hours and ten minutes. Twenty more minutes helps our elementary schools align with those in other districts as well as our own K-8 schools. 

That is interesting information - I didn't even know that.  But how did we get here?  The teachers union, for years and years, managed to finagle a shorter work day? I find it hard to believe that the district was helpless against this.

Update: about the district calendar:

What would a strike do to the last day of school?
Must missed days be made up? State law requires 180 days of instruction, and the state will grant no exceptions to that law because of a strike. Decisions about when strike-lost school days will be made up will be part of final negotiations after a strike. Possible make-up days include scheduled snow make-up days, break periods and next summer.

What about graduation if there is a strike?
State law requires that seniors be in school 175 days before graduation. Graduation for the class of 2016 is scheduled for June 11 and 12. Any delay of the school year may impact graduation. The length of delay can have impacts on the graduation schedule as well as the cost of makeup days.

28 comments:

Lynn said...

Melissa,

I believe we have a shorter day because at some point the district balanced the budget by reducing the length of the school day (and teacher compensation.) It's not reasonable to add that time back in without adjusting compensation (separate from any discussion of a COLA.)

Lynn said...

Here's an article that explains the shorter day.

Po3 said...

It is my take, from the district website, that the last items that need to be resolved are length of contract (SEA wants 2 year, district wants 3 year) and percent salary increases over the 2 or 3 year contract. Is this correct?

Anonymous said...

A couple of things:

I would like to see specifically how that new $37.2M from the state is allocated. And who is doing the allocation? The district or the state? Is some of the allocation already going into the district's offer? Or is it just the $9M "unallocated" portion that is included or the district may be able (in its mind at least) to use to increase an offer?

Where does the money come from to close the gap between the district's offer and the union's request? Even if you add up the $37M from the state and the entire rainy day fund, that's only $59M towards closing a $110M gap (on the 3 year contract)--and shedding a bunch of bloat from downtown is easier said than done and wouldn't really go too far to close the gap anyway. I think I recall (but could be wrong) someone from the union responding that the McCleary money would make up the gap (and Melissa alludes to this a bit as well when discussing the rainy day fund), but at this point, I think it is completely unreasonable to assume that the legislature is going to provide the funds, as history has shown that they simply will not. It seems to me that a reasonable resolution could be to accept lower raises (maybe the district's offer, maybe something a bit more than that) on the condition that if and when the legislature gets its act together and provides the additional funding, it will automatically provide a further raise (to what the union is requesting, or maybe a slight bit less) without any further collective bargaining needed.

--Frustrated with both sides

Outsider said...

Wherever it came from, the shorter school day is a blessing and the union would be doing good service to fight any change. If any time were added to the elementary day, it should only be for lunch, which is too short. Watch a kindergarten lunch, and the average eco-correct Seattlite would pass out on the floor after watching 25 pounds of nice healthy food get scraped into the garbage. Part of the reason is just not enough time to eat.

But average-to-bright kids don't need more instructional time. It seems like another case where school policy is set with only the bottom third in mind, the students at risk of not passing the big test. At most, the longer instructional day should apply only to the students who need it or want it.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with Frustrated. I'd love for teachers to get everything they want, but who is going to pay for it?

I honestly believe that unless we have an income tax and a better system to fund education, these problems will never be solved.

Is Seattle ready to take the bullet?

-BAM!

Anonymous said...

The state needs to set all teacher and admin salaries in stone on a basic ed. schedule. Then they need to set a 10% maximum extra per job for all local levy money used for salaries. Keep everyone honest and keep it fair between admin and teachers, which otherwise destroys morale.

-NNNCr

Melissa Westbrook said...

It would be nice if SEA put out a one-page sheet on the funding for teachers. I just learned that the COLA is based on the state salary and not on the SPS salary. I think the funding and the per year increase is confusing.

BAMI, we are coming on the perfect storm here - charters want money, teachers want money, we need money for transportation - where will it all come from?

Watching said...


There is a page for "Proposal Statue". The district recommends the elimination of Creative Approach Schools and SEA rejected this proposal. It is important to note that the issue of Creative Approach schools remains in "continued negotiation" status.


http://seattleschools.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=1975167

I realize there is a lot of information, and information changes rapidly, but it is important to keep an eye on this issue.

There has NOT been a discussion related to the elimination of Creative Approach schools and I have to wonder if parents know that their alternative schools are on the chopping block.(!)

Anonymous said...

Watching, are Creative Approach Schools more expensive?

Or what is the rationale for putting forward such proposal?

The perfect storm it is indeed, Melissa.

-BAM!

Anonymous said...

Where will all the money come from, how about reducing central administration to only a few hundred? I would like to welcome Luke Duecy to the SPS staff,

Luke Duecy joined KOMO-TV in July 2007. A native of Northern Virginia, Luke grew up just outside of Washington DC where he discovered a passion for news, ...

Luke joins the Office of Public Affairs at SPS, now with a total of 6 people.

It should not required over $650,000 per year to staff a communications dept for a public school system.

Cut Cost

Anonymous said...

The following in my opinion is like reaching agreement that apple pie is an acceptable dessert.

"Student Equity and Opportunity Gap
The SEA and the Seattle Public Schools continue to strive for a relationship that is focused on providing the best possible learning environment for students. It is the moral and ethical responsibility and a top priority for Seattle Public Schools to provide equity access and opportunity for every student, and to eliminate racial inequity in our educational and administrative system.
Negotiation Status
Agreed: SPS and SEA have reached agreement.


Does this reached agreement mean anything?

On a serious moral and ethical responsibility the SPS and SEA have reached agreement on doing the same thing as before. Apparently successful negotiations brought this about.

So how is the providing of equity access and opportunity maximizing the learning opportunity for each child? Has any progress been made from 2006 to 2014 in reducing the "achievement gap" other than renaming it "the opportunity gap"?

Achievement can be directly measured. Perhaps "Opportunity" cannot be directly measured and things are just way better now (no direct measurements used).


Bewildered Mind

Anonymous said...

Could it be that by eliminating Creative Approach schools they will be eliminating what little "choice" we have left, giving more power to the Charter Schools argument that there is no choice in public education?

If all the wasted hours of testing could be eliminated, how much more instructional time would there be? My guess is way more than adding extra minutes in a day. A whole bunch more. Seems like an easy solution. Except not what the powers that be want - no money in that for the testing companies and software and hardware providers.

Conspiracy

Lynn said...

Cut Costs - also:

Charles Wright Deputy Superintendent (a position created for him when he was hired in 2013) total 2014-15 cost $241,879

Director of Continuous Improvement
Director of Project Management
Executive Director of Talent Management
Executive Director of Leadership Development

Anonymous said...

Everything else in the state budget should be analyzed and dissected to re-determine appropriate levels of funding given different timelines and expected needs. Many millions could likely be saved. SPS could also trim district administrative "overhead". Then, and only then, should new sources of funding be considered.

Once an income tax is established, there is only one direction it will go over the years. For selfish reasons for me and my family, I'd really like to NOT have an income tax and believe that needs to be reserved as a measure of last resort after exhausting ALL other options. Also, introducing an income tax without revising all the rest of the taxes to be less punishing to those not as well off would be irresponsible and immoral. <-- all this is an even bigger, more controversial mess than education and would take even longer to resolve than finding more money in what we already have.

Parent of 2 in Seattle Schools

Anonymous said...

Should the header notice be titled 'Accommodations' instead of 'Commendations'?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that old article, Lynn. Pretty absurd that they originally shortened the day to save money, but now want to lengthen it for free.

Re: eliminating the Creative Approach Schools, I also heard from a teacher that the district proposed (officially) eliminating Spectrum. I don't see this listed as a separate proposal, but I wonder if it's embedded in another, e.g., "Standardization of K-8s." Has anyone else heard anything like this?

HF

Melissa Westbrook said...

BAM, to my knowledge the burden of Creative Approach falls upon the schools. I have not heard of any financial support to schools by the district.

Anonymous, I was trying to be nice.


Calendar Concerns

What would a strike do to the last day of school?

Must missed days be made up? State law requires 180 days of instruction, and the state will grant no exceptions to that law because of a strike. Decisions about when strike-lost school days will be made up will be part of final negotiations after a strike. Possible make-up days include scheduled snow make-up days, break periods and next summer.

Creative Approach schools are not the Option schools. So please don't get them mixed up. It is confusing but they are not the same thing.

Spectrum? Toast.

mirmac1 said...

I agree. Why the hell does C&I need its own PR person? I guess they got egg on their face with the whole MIF adoption.

Carol Simmons said...

Thank you Bewildered Mind,

I have read and re read the SEA and SPS negotiation agreement regarding reducing the opportunity gap. It lists committees and more committees reporting to more committees.......and finally in 2018 recommendations will be once again made to committees that will report to the Equity and Race Department committee that will report to the Superintendent and School Board.

This foolishness has got to stop. There were recommendations made since the first Disproportionality Task Force in 1975. Equity teams, Leadership teams, Building teams, School Improvement teams and other teams have been formed in the past to address this. Now an agreement has been reached to form more committees and teams. Meanwhile, nothing has improved to eliminate disproportionality in discipline. Finally a resolution was made by a School Board Director to eliminate suspensions for elementary students. This resolution was delayed while agreements were made to form committees and teams reporting to other teams.
Will the resolution be passed or will there be more committees and teams formed to discuss the resolution with equity and building leadership teams?

Anonymous said...

Re: the rumor about eliminating Spectrum. It wouldn't surprise me. APP/HCC has become more like Spectrum, and middle schools are combining Spectrum/APP students for some HCC classes already. But without the Spectrum designation, what criteria would be used for class placement? Would there be honors opt-in classes in middle school, or would they claim the work is being differentiated to serve all levels of students within a class? When they changed the APP/HCC LA/SS sequence to align with GenEd, they claimed maintaining appropriate challenge was all about the tiered assignments, but it has been very questionable in its implementation.

-RIP Spectrum

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest issue with the way funding works in this state is it makes these types of negotiations even more subject to confusion and obfuscation. It is basically impossible to know what they are actually request/demanding. 1%, 21% and everything in between...on what?

There's are a few big issues that concern me. 1 - what is truly being negotiated, 2 - how much it is really, and 3 - how much is it really going to cost.

1 - I see a lot of things listed, but most of them seem meaningless - equal opportunity, but what use are more and more and more committees of discussion? To me, this is a herring - a fake negotiation point. I've seen signs supporting teachers talking about nurses, counselors, etc, but again, not much of the above actually talks to that either.
2 - This nonsense of levy dollars, state dollars and whatnot is ridiculous. I looked yesterday and couldn't figure out if teachers had actually gotten a pay adjustment in years or not. I know the answer is no from the state, but has there been any from SPS? The pay structure, tenure and overall schedule/breaks in teaching is so wildly different than any business I've ever worked for, so I'm not going to get into details as to whether I think they are appropriately paid or not, but I do think that we need to at least be able to talk in real numbers about what they are being paid and how much they want/the district wants to adjust that pay.
3 - I think there's a huge open question as to how much, in total, this is going to cost and whether we can possibly afford it. To me, the answer is absolutely not. Maybe once McLeary is fully funded? But look...we have schools that are beyond in disrepair. We do not service many kid in special education appropriately at all. Our class sizes are ridiculous. We are massively short on nurses and counselors. I think that downtown is very likely overstaffed and that should be addressed (board?), but paying teachers more while disregarding the myriad other major issues (caused by a funding shortfall) affecting our kids seems shortsighted. I've seen a lot of talk in places about how the district hasn't even met 1/2 of SEA's expected increase and therefore aren't making an effort. But I think, given what I've seen and read (admittedly not everything), it looks like SEA just overshot. Yay - we got $37M from the state and we have a big reserve (was that really only $22M?), let's ask for $121M? Where is the other $75M going to come from?

NE Parent

Anonymous said...

"Since 2007, the district has increased salaries for teachers by 23%, exceeding the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 19% over the same time period. "

That's what SPS says. But teachers say they haven't had COLAs in about as many years? What's the true situation? Is this a semantics thing--an issue of state-funded vs district-funded portions, COLAs vs. increases in salary scale, etc?

If only one side would release the details of how they arrived at their calculations...

HF

Melissa Westbrook said...

The reserve is not the money from McCleary.

I wish SEA would put out a one-sheeter about the funding of teacher salaries. It would help.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Melissa ... that is one of the main things that parents want a REAL answer about. How is each side calculating their numbers? Another thing ... will the kids have a longer day (in year 3) or is the current school day re-organized ... somehow?

Let's GET JESSE!

N by NW

Anonymous said...

@HF --

The teacher contract that ended in the school year 2007-2008 required that salaries paid in Seattle be in the top 5 among twelve districts in the area. That meant that in the last year, teachers did receive a significant raise -- somewhere around 9.5%, give or take.

I can state that as a teacher with many years experience (thus not eligible for the annual step increase) -- my salary has not significantly increased since then. Here is a link to a PI article from 2007 --

http://blog.seattlepi.com/schoolzone/files/library/teachers_contract_press_release.pdf

IA teacher

Anonymous said...

As a former employee of a school district on the east side, and a current SPS employee, I need some clarification. I remember a while back being told that my previous district had to cut back and was able to cut Admin costs back to something like 4%. I was told on the picket line today that SPS spends one THIRD of their budget on admin costs. I can't believe it's true, but I can totally believe it's true. Does anyone know how much of the SPS budget is spent on admin? Is it possible I'm not comparing apples to apples? I'm horrified that SPS could possibly be spending over 30% of the budget on district office personnel while neighbors can get the job done (including new buildings, maintenance, technology, and regular adoptions of curriculum) with a fraction of that.

-say it ain't so

Anonymous said...

say it ain't so,

That's a good question. If you didn't already do so, you should repost it in a more recent thread like the "Friday Open" where people will see it. Looks like this one didn't receive much attention after your post.

Scrawny Kayaker