Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Will Final SEA Vote Be on New Contract?

I'm hearing some dissension in the rank-and-file but I don't know how widespread it is.  This from the Soup for Teachers group:

My brother is a teacher in the district. He made this visual to make it clear how much the teachers are being asked to give up on compensation. He said teachers at his school are strongly considering a "no" vote on Sunday.

Understand, the strike is suspended right now, not ended.  If enough teachers say no, it's back to a strike.

 Now naturally, everyone wants this done but if teachers don't feel satisfied, they may say no to the deal.  I doubt it because of the spin it will get from the district and the media (not to mention the ire of parents) but it's a possibility (just as the charter law ruling was a possibility that no one wanted to believe could happen).


MatttheEngineer said...

Forgive me if you've answered this before and I missed it, but I still don't understand how the district gets any more money. Aren't we limited by levies? And aren't levies something we have to vote on? And doesn't the state limit how much we can actually raise through levies? And doesn't the vast majority of funding come from the state, who does not have a seat at these negotiations?

If the argument is that we need to lay off many administrators in order to pay for teachers, then this just feels like fighting over scraps. But I haven't heard that argument being made by SEA. Actually, I haven't heard any argument made over where this money would come from.

Anonymous said...

This is just so much a sign of how messed up these negotiations are.

This chart indicates teachers are "working" 100 extra minutes a week. But are they? Or are they teaching an net extra 22-25 minutes a week per the district with the hour late/early once a week?

Second, does it really matter how much SPS came up/SEA came down? Depends on your perspective of course. Was SPS low balling their offer massively? If you believe that, then likely they didn't come up enough. Was SEA's proposal remotely reasonable? If you believe that, they came down too much. I can see why teachers are mad if they thought they'd get a 21% raise, but for many of us who haven't seen 7% pay raises ever without significant responsibility changes, those kind of raises just looked laughable.

And what happens next? Our schools are largely still falling apart, we still don't have enough space for all of our students and sped ratios aside, our classrooms still primarily have principals and teachers who don't support inclusion (in my experience). What will the next ops levy look like? I expect it to be painfully high and layered upon the planned BEX IV and transportation levies - ouch.

North Seattle

Eric B said...

Before you cast it all in terms of salary, you have to look at what else happened. I would think that getting testing out of evaluations would be worth a significant chunk of change. Maybe SEA's negotiating strategy was to ask for the moon on dollars knowing that it wasn't possible, then bargain salary to something reasonable in exchange for concessions on testing and ESA ratios. I don't know, but it's a reasonable negotiating strategy. Not to mention that the testing piece doesn't even make it into broadcast media reporting, so most of the public thinks that SEA was the reasonable party here and gave up so much while actually getting a top priority.

Anonymous said...

I also have had trouble finding details about the staffing ratios for the Special Education programs (or maybe I'm just lost in all the posts/tweets/banging together of rocks). Where did the negotiations come out for this?

- Wondering

Anonymous said...

If the deal isn't that great (hopefully with emphasis on cutting testing as much as legally possible), I hope the membership could vote to reject it but keep teaching for a week while negotiations continue before returning to the picket lines, with that deadline clearly and publicly stated as hanging over the district negotiators' heads.

Having the kid out of school is of little consequence for my family, but for many parents I'd bet having the schools shut down again after two days would test their loyalty to the teachers. Since they've proven they're willing to strike, I'd think they could use that as a credible threat against the district in continuing negotiations as a bomb they're able to throw, but just haven't quite yet.

Scrawny Kayaker

Melissa Westbrook said...

I spoke at last night's 43rd Dems endorsement meeting (in support of Jill Geary and Leslie Harris who were both endorsed by the 43rd Dems - more on this to come). I also spoke, as devil's advocate, about the King County levy coming up, Best Starts for Kids.

I have two reasons to question this levy. One is that I cannot get an answer about whether this levy will have programs that compete, compliment or overlap with other programs from the state and city. I don't want to vote for any levy that isn't clearly different and reaching kids who are otherwise not served.

The other reason - and I've said this before - is that we now have at least 1/3 of our property tax in levies. Parks, libraries, emergency service, roads, schools - all good things. But how much can we all take on? Given that we are arguing over affordable housing, don't we have to consider our fellow citizens who may be poor or be on a fixed income like seniors?

So we have the $900M+ City transportation levy plus KC's kid levy and then, come Feb. the two renewing school district levies. Those two levies are likely to go up (not down even with McCleary dollars coming in) so probably $850M.

Can Seattle voters really say yes to all this? I don't think so.

Bemused said...

Am I crazy to think that it would be political suicide for the teachers to reject the agreement on Sunday and return to striking on Monday? Not saying it would necessarily have to go down this way, but I have to agree with Scrawny that even the most supportive of parents would be frustrated with such a turn of events. And not all Seattle voters are parents, obvs. Seems like a risky move for them to take.

Po3 said...

I think the district made a terrible error in purposefully publicizing that school was starting on Thursday before the SEA leadership voted to accept the contract. It was a tactic that really pissed off teachers and many may vote no just to spite them, which could result in a no vote and split the both teachers and parents leaving the kids as the biggest losers.

Anonymous said...

At our building this morning, teachers are mixed on the TA. Everyone agrees that there were some wins and losses. However those wins and losses are different depending on who you talk to. The biggest hit at our school was getting rid of testing and caseload caps. The worst thing was the extended day- time, money, lack of involvement in making such a big shift, etc. We were told that the extended day was a must have for the district. We got some things we wouldn't have gotten because we agreed to the extended day. Special ed doesn't look that good either.

Some people were contemplating voting no until we learned if we vote no, we start all over bargaining with a clean slate. If that is true, then everyone I know will vote yes for the contract.

Even though we did get a lot, it was a negotiation process and I think people are dealing with their disappointment about what we did not get. My issue was the extended day, so I am more disappointed than folks whose issue was testing.
Teacher here

Anonymous said...

Is returning to the picket line the only possible next step if the contract is rejected? Are there other possible "actions" SEA could take? The contract looks like the district forced teachers to sacrifice their own professional dignity (by taking less than fair/adequate compensation) in order to get the district to finally do what is right for students (testing, case load caps, recess, equity teams, etc.). Social Justice shouldn't be treated as a bargaining chip. Teachers appreciate the parent support and don't want to put families back into the middle of this struggle. It is an unfair move for the district to force teachers into the position of "bad guy" like this.

The images of teachers giving blood on 9/11, last Friday, seems almost prophetic in retrospect.


Watching said...


Thanks for bringing-up the issues of levy funding. I need to learn and understand more about this issue. As I understand it, the state imposes a levy cap. How much is the cap and where are we?

Seattle and King County both want funding for prek and transportation.

I recall hearing suggestions for a levy to fund police and fire.

Some in the state legislature are proposing a levy swap to fund education. This means that Seattle Public Schools stands to loose tens of millions of dollars- and our present levy is expiring.

A lot of questions, here.

Anonymous said...

Pragmatic Queen, the teachers sacrificed their professional dignity and adequate pay by accepting raises that are larger than most people get? Come again? A 2-3 % raise is more common, and many of us non- teachers are lucky to get that. But often not every year. Teachers may have foregone COLAs for many years, but they weren't alone. And didn't you get other increases during that time anyway (the SPS portion, the step increases)? Most people I know would be thrilled by a 11.8 percent raise over the next three years--and that's not including a possible state COLA in the third year, too.


Anonymous said...

Teacher and parent here who will vote down the TA. Do I wish that SPS had given more in terms of salary? Yes, but that is not the reason I will vote not to pass.

SPED staffing ratios are unacceptable. For the district, reducing a teacher here and there or swapping a cert for an IA is not much, but to the individuals- both students and other school staff - the loss is great. My SPED colleagues and students need and should have more support, not less.

The biggest problem for me is the time added to the school day. My teenager needs to be starting school closer to 9 than 8. Though this added time is a change for the third year, it will kill the current move toward healthy start times. There is research and global trend in favor of moving to later starts- where are these for additional seat time?

I would hope that the general assembly votes the TA down- but we want to be in the classroom. If only the TA could be voted down, but school stays in session while negotiations continue.

Whatever happens: I am moved by the support shown by the parent community during the strike. Wow! You have been. Your support is restorative.

If the TA passes, please, families- use this togetherness and momentum you have to apply pressure to the district over start times. Do not let this issue die- some of you have already worked hard on this issue- let's make it happen.

Teacher and Parent

GarfieldMom said...

I feel like a broken record, but... those percentages aren't calculated correctly.

When the numbers actually get applied to the salary formula, the effective total raise is 11.8%.

SPS came up 2.57% from their original numbers, and SEA came down 9.85%.

No, the percentages don't match up to what you get if you just start adding the percentages together. The formula doesn't work that way.

There's a teacher working on modeling the numbers also. Sounds like he plans to get the info together in order to share with other SEA members.

Anonymous said...

Are teachers actually under the misapprehension that if they vote down the contract this Sunday parent support will still be with them? Given how painful that would be for students, and that all the proposals would be void, so the bargainers would be completely starting over again? I doubt the district would feel any more generous this time, without a stable, believable bargaining partner, and with a promise of even more delay. Parents hate the district for jerking them around, but that doesn't mean they will tolerate it from teachers. Agree, political suicide, and a bad move to boot.

Beyond the Wall

Jon said...

I don't know about that, "Beyond the Wall". It's not like this superintendent has made himself popular, and the widespread view among parents is that his administration is bloated and ineffective. My impression is that most parents do stand with the teachers and would do so even if they voted this down Sunday, blaming this unpopular superintendent and his team for the failed deal, not the teachers.

That being said, it would be horrible if that were to happen.

Anonymous said...

Teachers need to be aware that they will lose the support of at least some (and likely many) of the parents if they vote this down after their elected representatives on the negotiating committee and the representative assembly approved it. This will in all likelihood weaken their bargaining position (less voters calling the board and superintendent in support of the teacher's position).

I, for one, supported the teachers going on strike (even though it made my first grade daughter cry), because it did not appear that the district was bargaining in good faith prior to the strike. Now that a contract has been agreed to by the negotiating committee and the RA, it is clear that the district made some concessions, and presented a deal that many felt was reasonable enough. If the strike resumes after the kids are back in school for two days, it will (a) be extremely upsetting to kids who have been waiting for school to restart, (b) be extremely disruptive to parents and families, and (c) make the teachers appear to be the ones not bargaining in good faith.


Anonymous said...

The "raise" in the last contract was summarily yanked when we were furloughed and had the day after the last day of school cut from our contracts. It was either that or layoffs (I cannot remember which group's livelihood was threatened that time.) We saw less than none of that raise.

Does anyone know, if that day after the last day get added back into this one?


Strike Econ 101 said...

Econ 101:

It is not a 9.5% raise! 0.5% is earmarked for extra work in year three. That leaves 9.0%. However, that 9.0% is multiplied by the approximately 80% state contribution to Seattle teacher wages. 9.0% of 80% = 7.2% wage adjustment! Divide that by 3 contract years and the annual increase is 2.4% to overall wages.

We went on strike for a 2.4% per year wage adjustment when we started negotiating at 7% Huh? We were told by our strike coordinators to hold the line for 5.0%. This is embarrassing. The SEA leadership is acting like the generals at the close of the Vietnam War: claim victory and run (even when you lost).

And, stop adding the state COLA's to the final negotiated figures. You can't dip twice. They are already factored into the 80% state contribution.

Current inflation rates are low because the Federal Reserve is pumping billions of dollars into the economy (out of thin air). That will end soon. Usually, inflation runs (on average) 3.18%. Factor in skyrocketing healthcare costs, competition for affordable housing (Amazon immigrants), and transportation, and teachers in Seattle will continue to go backwards (as has been the case since about 2007).

Our building is voting no on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

It is huge that the pay increases are for everyone, certs, paras, and saeops. At one point during the bargain, the district offered an increased raise to just certificated staff. The bargaining team countered with a slightly smaller percentage that covered everyone and it stuck. I am proud of my union for sticking together when the district tried to divide us. This TA has one of the biggest raises ever for Paras and Saeops. This is the first time in my experience where we have really been a united SEA like we are in this TA. I think this is a good TA. Of course we could wish for more, but this is a solid contract and we made many gains. No more student growth measure!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree that teachers are way overestimating parent/community support if they don't accept this deal. I have been solidly behind the teachers up to this point, but I won't be if they reject what their bargaining team and their representatives voted was a fair deal.

Enough Already

syd said...

My family will stand with the teachers if they decide to continue striking. A living wage and good working conditions are worth fighting for. I absolutely want teachers who feel supported and valued in the classrooms with my kids.

I am still holding out for our state supreme court to shut down all the schools in the state until we get adequate funding.

Anonymous said...

In the fight for $15 minimum wage, Seattle didn't settle for less than 15. True, it's going to take a few years, but the win is huge. I went on strike thinking that this fight would be similar. That we wouldn't back down. Yeah, it's a negotiation, I get that. But in this city right now- where you can't walk 10 feet without running into new construction- there's money. There's a lot of money. And I'm just so bloody sick of working my tail off and barely getting by.

And another thing: has anyone out there ever made a good decision after staying up all night? Anyone?

- oy

Anonymous said...

Eric, you've nailed it! It was never all about the money! Yes, this is hard for many to believe. But, we sacrificed a raise in order to make gains that we felt were more important-- yet still, we had to make sacrifices and compromises in other areas in order to make these gains. But, it's a first step. The salary increase was always the least important piece on the table for me. I can live, albeit a modest lifestyle that is paycheck to paycheck. My first priority was improving our school system. That said, I am very disappointed by the sped ratios and overages for teachers. I am happy with ESA caseload (averages) that are unforcable. Compromise/trade offs are a difficult beast to wrestle.

South-end Sped

Anonymous said...

From what I understand the district agreed to the ratios and overages on the SEA counter.

south-end sped

Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea. I don't want to strike. But I want to make sure that the contract in place is the best we can get.

South-end Sped

Anonymous said...

We are not getting an 11.8% raise on our total salary. Teacher salary is very complex. Some comes from state (base pay) some comes from district. Seattle's base pay contribution is 11th in the state. Yet, we teach in the most expensive area. I make less as a mid-career teacher than I did 8 years ago teaching in another district. Interestingly enough, the pay increase was at the bottom of my list & has little to with how I vote-- there were much more important issues on the table. The pay doesn't bother me-- even though I am a single parent with over $100,000 in studebt debt. I love my job. I love giving back to my community. Capital gain is not a primary reinforcer for me, as my primary needs are being met. I live a simple life. I don't have a savings account, I don't own a house, I commute 1 hour or more both ways to get to work, and I work with our most vulnerable population (low income, special education). Do I struggle? Yes. Do I make sacrifices? Yes. Do I accept this? Yes. I get it-- we live in a capitalistic society and I provide a social service. Therefore my pay is not guided by the princioles of the free market. What bothers me is the limited understanding by all-- teachers, media, community members-- of what this pay "increase" means. I wish that it would be covered objectively. I wish that it would be based on something meaningful. Yet at the same time, I'm so tired of hearing about it. It's exhausting. I guess I'm venting. Strike is not fun. I was not striking for money. To have it minimal used to this sucks. It makes me feel like I should stop caring and go else where-- private practice, neighboring district. But I love the city I grew up in...


GarfieldMom said...

Strike Econ 101, your numbers aren't figured correctly. You can't just subtract .5%, you have to use the formulas they use. (Also, there's still the matter of a 2.86% increase that's been mentioned a couple times on this blog. I don't know how that factors in -- I hear maybe it's just for elementary teachers to compensate for the longer day? I don't know, haven't read the TA. Again, if someone wants to send me a copy, I wouldn't say no.)

COLA does factor in more than once (not quite a double-dip), because if the base goes up one year, that's the starting point for the next year's calculations.

The state contribution isn't 80%, it's closer to 70% now (every year, the state contribution percentage for teacher salaries has been decreasing). Even so, they don't calculate salary increases by applying the percentages that way. You're actually looking at more like a 3.9% average increase, assuming the legislature does nothing by 2017-18. The original offer from SPS was about 2.59% average per year; the original proposal from SEA was about 6.7% average per year.

I do stand corrected on the numbers in my comment from earlier, thanks to Kate on another post. I knew the figures coming out from both sides were simplistic, but I didn't think that they would say 0% when they actually should have said -1.8%. The COLA passed by the legislature is 3% and 1.8%. But of those increases, only 1.8% in year 1 and 1.2% in year 2 are annual COLA as defined by I-732. The remainder (1.2% and .6%) is only in effect for one biennium, then it expires.

The numbers I've seen from BOTH sides (SPS/SEA) say 3%, 2%, 4.5%, plus COLA of 3%, 1.8%, for a total of 14.3%. (Again, this is faulty math, but let's stick with their math for a minute.) What they should have said is 3%, 2%, 4.5%, with COLA of 3%, 1.8%, -1.8%, for a total of 12.5%. Yes, there might be a COLA in 2017-18, but I hope no one is counting those chickens until they hatch. So what looks on paper like a 4.8% COLA increase is actually only 2.97% over the term of the contract if the legislature does nothing.

But you SHOULD NOT pay attention to those numbers at all if what you care about is what the numbers will actually be on the salary schedules, i.e., you want to look at your step/lane on the schedule and figure out what you'll make in year 1, 2, 3. As Frustrated says, the pay is complex. I did have another person confirm the formula I'm using, so I'm still pretty comfortable with it, although the district has put actual sample salary figures on their website (based on their last offer before the TA) that are so far over what I'm projecting that I think I should double check again before I publish the new projections. Either I've missed something or they're smoking something.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This was posted by SEA yesterday, comparing our proposed raises to the surrounding large districts. Eye opening, and I think we did pretty well.


Anonymous said...

There are numerous districts in the state that have a higher cost if living too. But that isn't stopping people from saying Seattle's is the most expensive.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain (or point me to an explanation I haven't found) how the SEA vote will work at this point? It sound like they will meet and vote by building. Does each building get one vote? Or do all member votes get counted as a whole? Does simple majority prevail? Are votes made public by the whole, building, or individual?

Phinneywood Parent

PFB said...

This is a good, 'fair' contract. I just don't understand the rage that some are showing for it. Are there flaws? Yes. But this is a negotiation and a compromise; a BARGAINING. That means that we won't get everything we want. I personally believe that we won on almost every item we pushed on. Pay is not as much as we'd have liked, but it is still an ACTUAL raise over three years which is an improvement. The landmark shifts built into this contract are MASSIVE WINS, though. Testing issues in particular. I will be voting yes, most definitely. It is a good contract, and we really won on the issues. We stood up, showed the world what we care about, and the city was behind us. If we vote no, even over SPED numbers and counseling loads which are large problems in this TA, that isn't enough for the public to continue their support. If we vote no for a couple percentage points more in compensation, we will be proving the naysayers right who thing we only went on strike for the money. Be rational, know that this is a beginning, and that we'll have more power and sway for school board elections, state funding issues, and our next contract if we approve this contract.

Longhouse said...

A sort of description of the voting rules is currently on the front page of the SEA website. Interestingly, they admit that the actual TA must be available for 72 hours before the vote. That would mean the union administration has to have the TA distributed to all union members within the next 90 minutes.

Anonymous said...

So here are the options. As I see them, ratifying the TA is the best of them.

Option 1: Reject TA and go back on strike. This will backfire as SEA will lose most, though not all, of its public support, especially now that school has started. Parents won't be happy at suddenly having to scramble again to find child care, particularly when news reports and SEA itself painted the contract as a significant victory. The momentum behind the strike has already dissipated and by Monday, when a strike would resume, that momentum would be almost totally gone. The media would spin the teachers' actions as ridiculous, and whether that's fair or not, many parents would believe it. Pressure on SEA to end a new strike would be intense. If this path is followed, the resulting TA will be worse than what was just achieved.

Option 2: Reject TA and continue bargaining but continue working. This avoids the loss of public support that would result from going back on strike. But it also would sacrifice the existing gains in the TA as well as giving up the leverage of a strike, which is what forced the district to cave as much as it did for this TA (even if they didn't cave enough in the end). If this path is followed, the resulting TA will probably be about the same as exists now, though probably with more wages but less policy concessions (the student growth rating, for example, might return).

Option 3: Ratify the existing TA. It's not as good as it could have been, but it's better than what would have happened without a strike and without public mobilization. And it puts the union in a strong position to keep fighting for gains, whether in a new contract negotiation or by allying with parents to pressure the district. Plus there will be four new board members come November, which could substantially change the district's behavior on key issues. If this path is followed, the existing TA would be a building block for an even bigger victory next time around.

Option 3 looks like the best to me and I will be voting to ratify on Sunday. I respect my colleagues who want to continue fighting, but they are very wrong if they believe that a resumed strike would have the same amount of public support as we had last week. It just won't, and we need to be very clear about that before moving ahead.

Secondary Teacher

Tapestry said...

I agree, Secondary Teacher.

We will lose parent support if we vote to continue the strike. Also, at least at my school fewer and fewer teachers were showing up to picket each day. The district knows that will happen and it puts them in a much better bargaining position.

Is it a great TA? No. But we will only lose if we continue the strike.

Try again in three years when the legislature may have started to do their job a little better.

From what I am hearing from my colleagues and from other buildings there is a very real chance the general membership may vote against this TA.

AnotherWay said...

I support our teachers. I mean this is a 3-year contract and there is no chance to change it until then. I also want the strike to end. I guess I am most confused if the SEA reps were encouraging members to hold out for 5%, why the reps took the offer? It seems like a first-pass of approval that I would think has a lot of value. Someone in the union is not doing their job. We can't let the district take advantage of the teachers.

BUT there might be something off on those numbers. I don't exactly trust the SPS and certainly not the board. They have made very little effort to release information to the public. (Shame on them- I thought Larry was a peace maker?!) In his Friday memo 20150904 he compared district offer of 13% to SEA 22% both including COLA. I think the COLA has confused everyone and no one is comparing the right numbers, BUT there is not enough information made public to say that for sure.

We have to keep the momentum of the parents going and really push for change at the Legislative level. Clearly, our elected officials don't see education as a priority and we have to remind them that it is a priority.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about the SEA if they agree to a contract with SPS that is then not ratified by the very union they represent? It seems like that would be quite a black eye for the union and teachers. As a parent I support the teachers, but that support (and the support of other parents I know) will wear very thin if there resumption of a teachers strike after returning to school for two or more days. This process has already been disruptive enough to families and even more so for the children if they keep starting and stopping the school year. It seems to be an exceedingly bad idea for the union rank and file to reject the contract that has beennegotiated by their very own union board and representatives.

blotter said...

And as of 3 p.m. today the tentative agreement hasn't been released and isn't available to the membership anywhere. By their own bylaws, the Sunday union meeting must be cancelled until union members have had 72 hours to review the agreement.

Anonymous said...

Po3's idea that teachers are mad that the district jumped to announce the Thursday opening is ridiculous. A member of the negotiating team told me that John Donaghy himself opened his announcement of the TA with "School starts Thursday." I think it can fairly be said that getting kids back to school was important for both sides. The SEA took a courageous stand to go out on strike in the first place -- nobody wanted it to go any longer than necessary.


Getting Tired said...

Question: Why didn't SEA membership take an immediate vote?

Children are back in school and there are emotional highs/lows for children starting/stopping school. SEA had a lot of goodwill, which, I believe, will erode with a NO vote.

SPS Mom said...

Getting Tired - the membership needs 72 hours to review the tentative agreement before voting, per contract. Some of them hadn't even seen it yet early afternoon yesterday.

Getting Tired said...

I was happy to stand with the teachers. I would have supported an extended strike, but now that my children are back in school, a NO vote would cause too much turmoil-emotional and otherwise.

I hope SEA membership votes YES.