Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Strike Updates

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Yesterday at the Seattle Education Association membership meeting, a vote was taken to authorize a strike.  The answer was yes, if the district and SEA do not come to an agreement before school starts on Wednesday, September 5th, the teachers will be on strike.

The School Board has their regularly schedule Board meeting today, starting at 4:15 pm.  SEA is urging teachers to picket at their schools from 3:30-4:30 pm with some coming to the Board meeting.  So far there are just five speakers on the list so plenty of room for more people to speak.

From Seattle Weekly:
SPS teachers’ salaries range between $51,500 to $100,700 under the current contract, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and finance, JoLynn Berge, told Seattle Weekly in an Aug. 6 interview. Meanwhile, teachers on Bainbridge Island negotiated a 21.2 percent wage increase to earn between $53,905 and $105,096; Shoreline’s union also secured salaries ranging from $62,088 to $120,234 through a 24.2 percent wage increase, according to WEA data.
From the district (partial):
Educators are the heart of Seattle Public Schools. The district supports our educators and believe they deserve a fair and competitive salary that includes every dollar the state has provided for compensation. We must balance our desire to support our educators while at the same time sustaining critical services and programs students need and families expect. Even with offering every state dollar, starting in 2019-20 the district is projecting a budget shortfall that will grow over time.  

A strike authorization does not mean educators are going on strike. Strike authorization gives the SEA bargaining team the authority to call a strike if an agreement is not reached. This is a normal procedural step if a tentative agreement between SEA and the district has not been reached prior to the general assembly meeting. The district and SEA continue to discuss important topics, including compensation, and will resume formal bargaining Wednesday morning. We remain optimistic that school will begin September 5.
From SEA:

I can find no official statement from SEA, either at Facebook or at their website.  This is all I find:

SEA members have given their bargaining team authority to call for a strike starting September 5, if a Tentative Agreement is not reached.

One bit of information I gleaned from a teacher writing on Facebook about the negotiations:
They are trying to sell us on a 10% raise, maybe. That does not even put us in line with Bellevue or Lake Washington, even though they claim is does. The middle and high end of the salary scale is still 6-7k lower. Many proposals don’t include these raises for SAEOPS either. Unacceptable. And don’t even get me started on how much teachers are being incentivized to go to nearby Shoreline! A 15% would still leave us far below our neighbor. 
But at the SEA Facebook page, one teacher said this:
Bargaining is about reaching compromise and in this case it is dire if we go above 10%. It is fact, not fear. I don’t like it either, but Seattle’s situation is such. We have all certs and support staff in our union, and we can’t do the same thing that other districts have done. Scratch that...we could, but union solidarity would be a joke if certs left them all behind. Also, 10% would put certs in comparable pay territory with the numbers in three close districts that are the most similar to us. Is this solving the low pay for living in the city problem? No, sadly. But the levy steal is deep and problematic. The RA was open with the information and honest about the process.
Another teacher:
Shoreline’s new salary schedule was released this weekend. A cert at MA+90 with 9 years experience there will get $95,144 now.

Seattle’s current salary for that same lane situation is $73,301.

So even if there was a 10% raise on TOTAL pay, rather than base, which is how they usually do things, that cert would still lag Shoreline by about $15,000. I don’t consider that “comparable pay territory.”


Robert Cruickshank said...

The fault here is clearly that of the legislature, and SPS needs to reinforce that at every possible opportunity. Every Seattle representative in the State House, except Noel Frame, voted for the horrible 2017 education funding deal that screwed our schools. (Every State Senator from Seattle voted no.) Those legislators need to be put on the spot and made to explain how they will fix this.

But SPS itself also has no choice now but to settle with SEA and grant them what they want. With the strike authorization vote, SPS has now lost all of its leverage. The public supports the teachers and nothing will change that. If there is a strike, parents will blame the district. If the strike is prolonged, parents will still blame the district.

No possible good can come from a strike from the district's perspective. They will have to settle on something very closely resembling SEA's terms. But much that is bad can come from a strike for the district. It would poison relations between a new and well-regarded superintendent and parents and teachers - I cannot imagine Denise Juneau wants a strike to open her time in Seattle.

It would be even worse for the school board, as it would make it very difficult for incumbent directors to get re-elected or to win election to another office - especially those who literally stood with teachers in 2015. Worse, it would add fuel to the fire with corporate ed reformers and the Seattle Times who claim the district is mismanaged.

While I understand the financial concerns the district raises, those aren't SEA's fault, and the district cannot solve them by forcing a strike. The district has no choice but to concede to what SEA wants and then pivot to getting the legislature to fix what they broke in 2017.

Right now, the Seattle legislators who are responsible for this mess are sitting quietly on the sidelines, hoping nobody will notice them. That must change.

Anonymous said...

Do not assume all parents support a strike or would blame the district. The district cannot promise money they don't have or won't have.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Compromise. I don't think the support for the union will be as universal as the previous strike because the District has basic budgetary logic on it's side. I would wager they would still get the majority of the support, but not as much as before. And it might decrease as the strike goes on. Giving credit where credit is due, SPS has been way in front of this and consistent in their communications about the deficiencies of the Mcleary "solution" the legislature came up with. They sounded like Chicken Little at first but now most analysis is in line with what their take was from the beginning.

I am a parent of a current and future student. I want the teachers to get a raise but it makes no sense to promise money that isn't there. If there is one thing we have learned from the legislature over the past years, it's that we should not have faith that they will fix this.

As painful as it is to think about doing this all over next year, doesn't it make the most sense to only do a one year contract for 2018/19 while there is (I believe) a surplus to pay for raises? Then we can see what happens in the legislature to deal with the decrease in local levy caps and the next contract can be negotiated with a better understanding of the financial situation for the upcoming years.

I don't like to sound so pessimistic, but leveraging our district's budget beyond next year on hope and wishes for the legislature to do the right thing is destined to end in financial and programmatic disaster IMO.

Phinney Dad

Honest Conversations said...

The Seattle Education Association has not had an honest conversation with the public. They have failed to inform the public that Seattle Public Schools is facing a projected $68M budget deficit in a few years. It is past time for the Seattle Education Association to circulate this document.


I agree with compromise.

Anonymous said...

But the Seattle School District has always cried poor, "honest conversations". Where does it stop? Now the teachers are even further behind. Why is it acceptable to expect professionals to not be paid competitive salaries? Your discourse and the District's, it's all wrong. And, SPS has a very large tier of JSCEE middle managers that do absolutely nothing for students. It can make one pretty cynical.


Honest Conversations said...

SEA is free to release their own projections. Where are they?

Anonymous said...

Why should they? Their focus ought to be on competitiveness, not doing the district's dance.


Anonymous said...

@Robert - Thank you for your honesty about the financial impacts. I would also caution that I think you overstate the strength of parental support. Most people I know are waiting to understand the total impacts and there is very little solid information yet.

Political realities being what they are, I think creating a deep financial hole and then depending on the legislature to bail us out is not a likely scenario given the current elected officials.

Everyone has to weigh the possibility the district goes broke and into receivership instead and that the state then gets control and the ability to drive down costs as it sees fit.


muh said...

There are other issues on the table: better PTO structure, more race and equity teams, more counselors in schools.. I would like to know more about those issues, and how they can be balanced with better salaries.

Robert Cruickshank said...

The legislature created the hole. It's on the legislature to fix it. The district faces deficits *no matter what happens* with the current contract negotiations and that is solely due to the legislature's actions. We need to fix that immediately. And there is support and momentum in the legislature for doing so.

So let's do that rather than screw our schools by forcing Seattle teachers to work for less than they can get just across the city limit.

Anonymous said...

Robert is correct. The SPS has ALWAYS had major deficits. Meanwhile, the state has a LOT of money to throw around on earmarks. The legislature has, in the past, consistently refused to fund education in this state for as long as I have lived here (over 35 years). Even when they were flush with money they wouldn't do it. I am tired of hearing their excuses. It is complacent of parents and administrators to wring their hands about "OHH the money" in the face of the shenanigans of the state legislature. Don't drink the Kool-aid.


Honest Conversation said...

I find myself agreeing with posters.

Let's see the numbers...all of them.

Anonymous said...

The justification for the strike authorization is that the district negotiators will not stop dragging their feet and resume bargaining in earnest unless there is the threat of a strike.

With regard to the legislature, many of us knew the 2016 education funding plan would come back to haunt us. Here we are. The Republican plan, acceded to by Democrats, shortchanged Seattle because of the claim that our supply of low-cost housing didn't warrant the kind of increased funds allocated to districts surrounding Seattle. In effect, the legislature calculated that it's more expensive to live near Seattle than in Seattle. There's no surprise that the Republicans would structure an education funding plan to disadvantage Seattle. The Democrats' acquiescence, and their excuses for it, have been a pitiful thing to behold.


Anonymous said...

@Megan Hazen PTOs and PTAs are separate legal entities not controlled by SEA or the district. I don’t see how this contract could create a better PTO structure.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

Commentators keep talking about "competitive" salaries. The flaw to that is that they are comparing our salaries to districts that making commitments with money they don't have after next year. Do we really want SPS to "competitive" with the districts that are promising funny money? Things will be worse for our kids if they promise more than the state is willing to give and we have to go through massive layoffs and program cuts a year later.

Reality Check

Anonymous said...

Multiple good points made by thoughtful people arguing different aspects of this dilemma. This is a complex issue. For me this poster also nailed where we all have to be putting pressure, which is on the legislature.
" The legislature has, in the past, consistently refused to fund education in this state for as long as I have lived here (over 35 years). Even when they were flush with money they wouldn't do it. I am tired of hearing their excuses" .

I have lived here for over 25 years and feel similar, am hoping people will put enough pressure to really change things. The media has been reporting the problems with the new funding model that is flawed.
A parent

Anonymous said...

It is difficult for me to look at pages 6 and 33 of the SPS budget and see how this constitutes getting "screwed."



Anonymous said...

That's because that budget conveniently ends before the cliff for the 2019-2020 school year which slashes all those numbers by double digit percents. This is the whole crux of the bargaining dispute. Where have you been?


Robert Cruickshank said...

It never makes sense to play a game that has been rigged against you.

The legislature in 2017 rigged the game against Seattle. They imposed two rounds of budget cuts - one in 2019, one in 2023 - designed to force cuts to our schools and keep teacher pay low.

Why would we play along with this game? Why would we just assume that the legislature's actions are etched in stone and unchangeable? We should not accept those budget cuts as inevitable, and we should not undermine our schools by underpaying teachers on that basis.

Don't do the Republicans' work for them.

Reuven Spoke. said...

At least one local legislator has spoken. Did everyone see Reuven Carlyle's warning shot last night?

It is pretty clear to me that the "pay the teachers now and let's go to the legislature to fix this mess" is not a strategy likely to lead to success.

I've heard from someone in another area that believes the class size reduction will be the first thing to go. Ultimately, he believes the legislature will reopen the definition of "basic education" to start trying to define it in ways that fit the available funds rather than having the funds fit the definition

McCleary is over. This is the wreck in its wake. When legislators don't "fix" this, someone or some entity will file a lawsuit and McCleary II will be born. Fifteen (twenty?) years from now that case will be concluded.

It's hard not to be pessimistic

Anyone have thoughts on Carlyle's comments?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Yes, I saw Reuven's comments. He is satisfied with the deal and sees no need to fix it and thus is trying to create the appearance that the legislature won't act. But I've talked to other legislators who disagree and do see the urgency and want to act in 2019.

We can either just lower our heads and accept a bad deal and the devastation of our schools, or we fight back now. My kid starts kindergarten in SPS next year. I know which option I'm choosing.

Numbers said...

The legislature was to address levy and special education during the next legislative session. I would like to see quotes from Carlyle to support Cruickshank's assertions.

I have crunched the numbers. Seattle could offer 10% and be competitive with Bellevue and Lake Washington.

Seattle @10% .... Bellevue....Washington

Year 1: $55K …….$53K …$58K

Higher on the scale:


It is time for these numbers to become known.

The board should hold the line.

There are no guarantees that a bill would make it through Olympia.

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

Seattle was one of the three highest paying districts in the state. Any calculation must be made from baseline funding.

IMO, WEA was more interested in inflammatory rhetoric. " Lake Washington got 20%..we should too!." "Our teachers will flee to neighboring districts.!" "We need to offer competitive wages.!"

Rhetoric should be followed with numbers.

Numbers said...

The last column is Lake Washington.

Anonymous said...

Hi Y-Axis. The same document helpfully includes the four-year projections on page 10, from which additional prior-year comparisons can be made.



Anonymous said...

I know it does, but the pages you point out do not, which is why they paint a misleading picture of "flush."


Anonymous said...

I understand why this blog is SPS-centric, given the name and all, but that does occasionally lead to analysis that misses larger pictures.

An interesting exercise -- go to OSPI's site and download the multi-year comparison tool:

Pull out the summary sheet and sort all the districts in the state by their percentage bump from 2017-2018 to the downgrade year of 2019-2020. You will find 132 districts below Seattle on that list, some even in the Puget Sound area.

Seattle has a problem because its levy of around $4000/student is now being capped at $2500/student. It can reach that level with a local tax rate of $0.63 per $1000. (See "Worksheet for Estimating 2019 through 2022 Levy Authority and LEA" on the same page.)

Those are mind-boggling figures for most of the rest of the state's districts, which are getting whacked instead by the $1.50 tax rate cap and then LEAed up to $1500/student. (Olympia and Tacoma both being good examples closer to home.)

Seattle got "screwed" if you compare it to districts like Lake Washington. Absolutely, but so did everyone else. Meanwhile, half the state also got "screwed" in comparison to Seattle.

And we're all in trouble once some of the mandatory benefits language phases in.


Table 19 said...

There is a plethora of numbers on OSPI Table 19:


Another View said...


Anonymous said...

@Another View -The comments in that link to Komo news show the ignorance of people who assume teachers work part-time and really have no clue how dedicated they are to their jobs. Seattle has some of the best teachers around IMO. They are so uninformed.

I do really get tired of the assaults on public sector worker salaries when the private sector pays so much higher. Sure as the cost of Seattle has been driven unaffordable by highly paid tech and other workers they just want to keep public sector employees salaries the same year after year. They also have no clue about how the state legislature is the problem and just complain about their own property taxes going toward teacher salaries.

I know so many highly educated & experienced people in the public sector outside of K-12 (at colleges etc) who have been making the same 50-60,000 per year for at least the past 15 years. They would go years and years without a raise and when they do get a lousy 2.5% their pension contributions and health care costs wipe out any small gain.
-Yet another view

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another View, I really don't like to ever link to what Ms. Finne says because it's both misleading and hyperbolic.

Unknown said...

This idea that teachers will leave SPS to go to other districts seems to presuppose that there are an unlimited number of teaching posts in those neighboring districts.

I taught in Shoreline; it's a great district and very difficult to get hired in. They only have two comprehensive high schools, and their two comprehensive middle schools are only grades 7 and 8.

The jobs just aren't there.

Palumbo Spoke said...

Now Palumbo has been quoted with this:

Will #waleg bail out school districts for approving unsustainable teacher contracts? Here is what Sen. Guy Palumbo told me today:

“I voted against the McCleary fix as it’s known. However, now that it’s the law of the land, and the Washington Supreme Court has ruled that we are meeting our constitutional duty, everybody has to implement the policy.

I am a big proponent of paying teachers a competitive wage because studies show that having a high quality teacher in the classroom is the most important thing we can do for students.

What concerns me are recent comments in the press from Superintendents who are acknowledging that they are making unsustainable budget decisions and that the legislature is going to have to bail them out in the next several years. I think that is a recipe for disaster.

There is no appetite in Olympia to bail out school boards and Superintendents who make bad budget decisions."

I hope those advocating for a pay now let the legislature fix it later have a plan in case the legislature doesn't do anything. And if the plan is a lawsuit, do you have the gen or fifteen years it might take?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Palumbo is trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. There very much is appetite in Olympia to address the failures of the 2017 funding deal. But Palumbo doesn't want to do that and so he's trying to convince everyone that this just isn't possible so we all have to sit back and suffer. He's wrong. Don't let him snow you like that.

Owler said...

@Fairmount Parent: PTO in this context is probably Paid Time Off.

UNION Tired said...

Some are advocating for other teacher benefits. At what point do dollars go into the classroom?

So Quiet said...

Well, I should would feel better if some of these legislators that are eager to step in and fix things would step up publicly and say that that is what they are going to do.

Perhaps the governor? someone? Will step up and say that, "yes, we understand that some of these raises create projected deficits that, but for the fix that we planning for, would result in larger class sizes, fewer investments in technology and other much needed investments."

This is a legislature (and state) that has underfunded education in ways that has resulted in two Supreme Court rulings against them in the last fifty years and, most recently, a string of contempt orders.

I remain very suspicious of unnamed legislators' "promises" of a fix that are made in private when there are teachers walking in the streets, parents scrambling for childcare and school boards being pitted against one another.

We're very rapidly approaching a crises, please, get these fixers out in the open so we can comfortably move forward.

Anonymous said...

We need open and HONEST (on both sides) negotiations. We need to talk about real numbers (total %, what’s true comp and what the ending numbers are). We also need a definition of what is basic education and what is funded and how much local districts have for local priorities. If basic education includes one nurse for every 10 schools, that’s a lot of extra money the district has to come up with to even fund one to every 2-3 schools. We need to know how much it costs to fund recess (?), race + equity team, full time librarians, better wages for non-teachers, etc and accept lower teacher pay vs other districts who don’t negotiate these items in. Or better understand how those districts that seem to manage to do everything better do it and decide what we can do too.

Right now I hear a lot of misleading quotes and potentially big misunderstandings from the teacher side and a lot of what seem like 1/2 truths from what feels like a very admin heavy central office.

Whose right? Either? Neither? Who knows. All I know is that nothing being negotiated seems likely to make much of an impact on my kids or many in the district.

Seattle Parent

GLP said...

PTO stands for Paid Time Off in this context.


Numbers said...

The district will loose $1500 per student in levy funding. The district has approximately 54,000 students. At $1500 per student, the district will loose approximately $81M.

I'm of the amount of dollars the district has received from the state. I'm uncertain if the district received a one time infusion- or a yearly increase for salaries.

So, yes, with a loss of $81M levy dollars...a 10% raise could push the district into debt.

The district was predicting a $68M deficit. Not sure what numbers they used to calculate figure.

Numbers said...

Clarification: I'm uncertain of the amount of dollars the district has received from the state...

Anonymous said...

GLP Oops that makes more sense. Thanks!

Fairmount Parent