Updates from Seattle Education Association

Editor's Note - I inadvertently deleted the last couple of reader comments (including one of my own) when I was cleaning up some spam issues. Apologies to all.

Update from SEA's bargaining team:
We are working through many topics, mostly related to student supports, and yet the Interest Based Bargaining process we use has a way of saving all the decisions until the end.  

I trust you all want the same thing, too, which is really all the talking points anyone needs to support the SEA bargaining work: strong student supports and keeping educators in Seattle.
Looks like we won't know anything until the district/union want us to know.  The initial deadline is August 21st which is about a week away.

I would guess "keeping educators in Seattle" means more compensation.

The story from the Seattle Times sheds some light on the mystery of hidden money that SEA says SPS has.
The district, which recently approved its largest operating budget ever, says its financial outlook is dim, and that it can only afford raises tied to inflation, about 2%. The union, which secured 10.5% raises last year, isn’t buying that narrative.

The union’s nonsalary priorities are largely the same as last year: funding for more counselors and nurses, expansion of school-based teams that focus on racial equity issues and more flexibility for personal leave.

On Monday, the union shared a report with The Seattle Times that shows the district spent $167.8 million less on teaching costs than what it budgeted between the 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 school years, a figure that the state education department confirmed. It also claims that the district overestimates its expenditures in its yearly budgets.

In its latest budget, the district estimates it will draw down more than half of its $116 million in cash reserves. Despite the $90 million rise in spending, some of the cuts they warned about are still happening. The district sent layoff notices in the spring to 10 teachers and counselors, and six assistant principals. To make up for a projected enrollment decline, the district also cut individual school budgets, transferring teachers to growing schools in some cases instead of hiring new staff. It also cut 2.5 positions from its central office.

Most of that projected spending increase will cover the state-mandated expansion of health benefits, as well as raises approved in last year’s contract, the district’s chief financial officer said last month.
In a statement, the district said it is “actively comparing our salaries to neighboring districts and have every intention of remaining competitive, but we have to balance that against what we can afford.”
I saw this query in the comments:

We should ask the candidates for school board what they would do differently to educate students well within the budget.

Parents, will you support a teachers strike?

end of update

Via their Facebook page (bold mine):

The two sides have been negotiating since May, and SEA has an initial contract deadline of Aug. 21. 

SEA bargaining priorities include competitive compensation, racial equity, professional growth and supporting the whole child.

Here are planned actions:
• Aug. 14 (Wednesday), 5:30 am to 7:30 am, sign waving on I-5 Albro Place and Northgate overpasses. Look for an email sent yesterday for sign-ups.
Aug. 21, 4 pm to 5:30 pm, rally at Seattle Public Schools central office (John Stanford Center)
• Aug. 27, 5 pm, Seattle Education Association general membership meeting at Benaroya Hall to either ratify a contract or vote on next steps. Registration begins at 3:30 pm. Members, watch for a reminder postcard with the info and an email with more details.

They have also had "picket captain" training.  I would assume that is in order to be ready to go if negotiations don't go well.


Unknown said…
So our greedy union is at it again. I'd rather have textbooks and functional computers for my students.

"Competitive compensation"=more money than any neighboring district

"Racial equity"=socialist agenda and ways to blame society instead of improving pedagogy

"Professional growth"=more meetings where we started at district-issued laptops and ignore administrators and sycophant, careerist colleagues who've been voluntold to ape the principals shtick to create the illusion of consensus

"Supporting the whole child"=means make kids behave, feel, and emote like nice white ladies think they should and pathologize their family, race, and/or gender when they don't

But look on the bright side: the Soup for Teachers crowd will get to virtue signal and gain political power.

SP, I'm not sure I'd call the union "greedy." It is tremendously expensive to live here and I do want teachers, cops, etc. to be able to live where they work.

I don't think racial equity = blaming society but I'm not going to educate you on all the ways that society has hurt POC.

PD, done well, is tremendously effective. What needs to happen is for the district to listen to the teachers about what PD they truly need.

Supporting the whole child probably - teachers help me out here - includes Ethnics Studies which is the opposite of what you are saying.
Anonymous said…
Teaching to the "Whole Child" means that instead of just teaching content we also teach things like anti-bullying curriculum, character curriculum, or social-emotional curriculum.

Outsider said…
SP is being snarky. Here is a semi-snarky interpretation:

"Competitive compensation" = what's the point of having a union if you don't ask for more money, and more money is called "competitive compensation."

"Racial equity" = no obligation to provide above-grade-level work to white students, and possibly also not to Asian students either.

"Professional growth" = demands on teachers keep growing regarding special ed paperwork and compliance, harassment, bullying, etc. Teachers are expected to maintain classroom order with almost no disciplinary leverage, and when they fail, the teachers are blamed for failing to engage students, or build rapport, or make the curriculum relevant etc. Teachers are under constant attack by a blizzard of factions and pressure groups for doing too much of something, or not enough, or being closet racist, or failing to affirm the identity of someone, or being cis-hetero hegemonic or dog knows what. Teachers are expected to be psychologist and social worker as well as teacher. If society is going to place this impossible set of demands on teachers, the least it could do is provide some training on the more esoteric aspects.

"Supporting the whole child" = adequate recess and time for lunch; arts, music, and dance; not making students miserable by force-feeding them academics at too early an age in pursuit of unrealistic standardized test targets; social and emotional learning; character development; and adequate counseling and wrap-around services.
Great Schools said…
I wonder if the SEA is also asking for incentives for teachers who teach at schools with higher poverty, lower test scores and lower teacher retention. Or maybe some system to reassign senior, highly experienced teachers away from lower poverty schools to higher poverty schools.

That would promote real equity.
Outsider, interesting thoughts. I hope parents read this and realize how many ways teachers are being pulled. They are human beings trying to do an incredibly difficult job in a constantly changing landscape.
Anonymous said…
What explicitly is SEA asking for in negotiations re: racial equity? How can we as parents of students enrolled in SPS get any transparency on negotiations if they are conducted behind closed doors? Does SEA list their contract demands somewhere on their website?

Concerned parent
Anonymous said…
The district already has a strategic plan and tools for promoting racial equity, so it’s hard to see how SEA’s prioritizing of racial equity means anything unless they are clear about what exactly they mean by racial equity and what exactly they want to do to promote it. Are they pushing for racial equity in access to high-quality instruction and resources—in which case they might better, and more accurately, push for cross-school equity? Are they pushing for racial equity in outcomes, in which they should be pushing for more intensive/expensive/effective strategies for working with racial groups that have typically had worse outcomes? Or, conversely, to achieve equitable outcomes would they rather push for lowering the ceiling on those groups that have had higher outcomes? Etc.

“Racial equity” doesn’t mean a lot without more details.

All types
Anonymous said…

Thanks for your recognition of the Catch-22 nature of the current teacher experience. You have nailed it in terms of how misbehaving students are given priority over the learning of other students and how the ability of the teacher to create a safe and conducive learning place has been strongly compromised.

Students in trauma need help, limits and supports. This is usually not happening. Administrators, instead, blame teachers for having failed to keep the problems from needing to be addressed. Translation: Teacher, solve it yourself. If you don't, it means you have an issue with the student or job performance. How often does an acting out student re-traumatize other students who have PTSD? That is rarely a consideration.

Your support is appreciated.


You have become much less ambiguous about supporting teachers. Thank you for also starting to realize how PBIS is often used to blame teachers, rather than being a means of getting additional supports for students in need. It would be helpful if you keep issues from reaching a tabloid fervor before all facts are known.

Grateful Teacher

Anonymous said…
@all types

Teachers, who are on the front lines day in and day out, just might realize that a strategic plan isn't quite translating into actionable effects on the ground level (see above for some examples). The are the ones who see what happens when students are not getting the education they deserve. If they are in the profession long enough, teachers really get to see the outcomes of SPS education on marginalized students. Finding out that your former student is in jail or dead happens more than you may realize. "Equity" then becomes more than a derided buzzword.

Viewing SPS through the almost exclusively through the lens of how it will affect HC is likely to miss the forest for the trees. Just a heads up.

“Racial equity” doesn’t mean a lot without more details."

Exactly. A couple of examples. They hire Mia Williams to oversee the African-American boys initiative. Will they back that up with staff and resources? They gave Ethnic Studies two FTE in that budget and yet, refuse to allow anyone to be hired. Hmmm.

Grateful Teacher,well, thank you for that backhanded compliment. However,between the union and the district, they often don't want all the facts known. They'd like to just not have to explain - to parents - what happens in classrooms and schools. If I had one time when either district or union said, "oh,here's some info on that situation to help you better report on it" then, you 'd knock me over with a feather.

"Viewing SPS through the almost exclusively through the lens of how it will affect HC is likely to miss the forest for the trees."

No one here brought up HCC. Don't stir the pot for no reason at all.
Anonymous said…
I wish all parents would read this blog and view twitter and FB. They will see that SPS is not the place to send our children. The facts are clear.

Disgusted parent
Anonymous said…
So, any actual facts about what SEA is asking for vis a vis racial equity in contract negotiations? Any place we can find such information?

Concerned Parent
Anonymous said…
@G.T., my comment about racial equity had nothing to do with HCC. You are conflating racial inequity (district-wide) with HCC (not district-wide).

If teachers are seeing that a strategic plan isn't translating into actual outcomes, it would be nice to know what they are advocating for to change that. Using your example, if groups of former SPS students are ending up dead or in jail at higher rates than others--and I am not disputing that--what is the solution? I fully understand that teachers are on the front line and have invested a lot of personal time and attention to serving these kids, and it must be heartbreaking to see such horrible outcomes occur. But please don't try to paint me as uncaring or only concerned with HCC (I don't have an HCC student, for the record) when I'm really just trying to get clarity as to the way "racial equity" is thrown about in this district, often meaning different things and usually used to support specific (and often not transparent) agendas whenever one sees fit.

I trust that you care about your (and other) students, as do I. I am asking in good faith what SEA means by "racial equity":
(1) What is their goal (e.g., equity of services? equality of services? satisfaction? short term-outcomes? long term outcomes?);
(2) What specific actions do we need to take to get there (e.g., what does SEA want added or changed, what else needs funding, etc.); and
(3) How will we know we are making progress or have achieved success (i.e., what specific indicators should we use to measure our progress toward the overall goal(s)?

If SEA is prioritizing racial equity in their negotiations, they should have at least preliminary answers to all of these, otherwise they, too, are using that as a mere buzzphrase.

all types
Alsept Teresa said…
Just so it’s clear. SEA has also not told staff in the schools exactly what they mean by racial equity.
Anonymous said…
How can SEA be negotiating on behalf of teachers and not tell the teachers what the union's asks are for the contract? Seems crazy. So, zero transparency there?

Concerned parent
Get A Life said…
As long as they get 10% majority of teachers couldn’t care less about all the other word salad. That’s just dressing to appease Melissa and her circus. It would be nice for those who work in Seattle to live in Seattle, however many do not. That shouldn’t be guaranteed.
Get A Life, my "circus?" And yet, here you are.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said…
All types, what "Racial Equity" means for the union is more money to hire teachers not to teach in the classroom and more stipends for RET team members to meet during Wednesday early release days, effectively double dipping. It means teachers getting PD about issues on the BLM agenda that have nothing to do with pedagogy.

Melissa, I am very aware of America's and the world's history of treating people of color very poorly, and my colleagues are too, and while issues like mass incarceration, environmental injustice, and online bullying hurt our classrooms, they're not in our preview. Whereas, issues like grading policies, curriculum, best practices, etc, are precisely in our purview, are exactly our business, but we don't talk about those issues. We don't cover our part of the field. We're like shortstops chasing wild pitches.
"...while issues like mass incarceration, environmental injustice, and online bullying hurt our classrooms, they're not in our preview."

Why not? Are you saying that you don't even have enough time to cover the basics so big societal issues are too much?

The problem is that all the things you listed above come - at least partially - from lack of education on issues. If we don't talk about these things in class, where then?

Anonymous said…
'''.The majority of workers in America do not get paid vacations. These teachers get 2 months off with pay each year. Greedy greedy greedy.

Get Etrade"

Teachers do not get paid vacation days, we ONLY get paid for 183-184 days of work per year. There are NO paid vacation or holidays. During the school year I general work about 10 hours per day. If you multiple that by 184 that is 1,840 hours per year. The average worker works 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year. That is 2,000 hours, which means the time is not that far apart considering most teachers I know also work a few days in the summer without pay.
To be clear, I am not really complaining about my pay. I just want to make it clear the amount of time we work.

Anonymous said…
Not to quibble, but work is changing (in the wrong direction), and the average American worker now works closer to 45 hours per week. So add another 250 hours to the average worker total, and that puts the approximate difference (per Teresa's numbers) at more like 400...or the equivalent of 10 weeks of an "officially but not really" 40-hr work week. It's easy to see why some, then, see it as teachers getting paid summers off.

I'm not arguing that teachers are overpaid. They fill an essential role, and can shape young lives. I do, however, wish there were better ways to ensure that those who are most effective are highly paid, and those who are not effective are exited. I'd like to see new teachers make more earlier in their careers IF they are effective. I don't agree with the idea that teachers necessarily get better over time and that years of service should be the primary factor in pay. I don't know that there's an easy way to implement something like this, but wouldn't it be great if teachers had more incentive for longer-term positive outcomes in their students, rather than short-term "pass them to the next grade level" incentives. I'd love to see those effective teachers not only rewarded for their skill, but also tapped into as a resource for those who need/want to up their game.

But to be fair, most of the current problems in SPS are not due to the teachers.

Look higher
Anonymous said…
Any raises should be conditional on the union ceding some ground on due process to create a transparent bad apple exit policy.

The environment that allowed the Albert Virachimsith student rape to occur has not changed.

Organizations seek to protect themselves at all costs.

The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and, yes, public schools unions.

If you think I’m exaggerating, google sexual assault k-12. It’s a national issue.

If the district does not force this issue, they’re complicit in allowing SEA to prioritize adult needs over vulnerable students.

Immoral. Inequitable. Unsafe.

Anonymous said…
My salary is based on 2080 work hours per year or 260 days. Whether you think you get paid for vacations or not it's clear that teachers have a shorter work year than any other profession in the same salary range. I get 10 days PTO structured as use if or lose it.

So enjoy your funded time off.

Get Etrade

Anonymous said…
"Any raises should be conditional on the union ceding some ground on due process to create a transparent bad apple exit policy."

Well said.

Anonymous said…
SEA's definition of racial equity is allowing white billionaires to replace teachers of color with screen-based curriculum and shrugging their shoulders when those teachers are RIF'd because all the money that should've gone to teacher jobs is now going to some education tech company.

Bitter Much
Anonymous said…
Every union has what's called a "duty of fair representation" which means they have to provide the same defense to every member regardless of the issue, even teachers accused of assaults on kids. That's not a contract issue, it's in state and federal law. SEA has no control over that.

More importantly, behind almost every story of a teacher who committed misconduct (or worse) is an administrator who knew there was a problem and did nothing. You can fire a unionized teacher. You can fire a tenured unionized teacher. It's not hard. It's just time-consuming, and a lot of administrators don't want to be bothered. They wait until it's too late.

So better administrators are an important part of the solution. Instead we have principals like Emily Butler Ginolfi who create a climate in which mistreating kids is not just condoned, it's her explicit policy. And SPS is fine with it, and you hear nothing but silence from the SEA-SCPTSA-SEE crew about it.

Team Ster
Anonymous said…
Get Etrade, if you only get 10 days PTO, you work for a crappy company. It used to be, you would get separate sick leave and vacation. Now companies screw over their workers by combining the two into PTO and overall the employee ends up with less time off. So you want to lower the ceiling instead of raising the floor?

Michael Rice said…
Actually, the SEA did a very long and drawn out process this spring asking teachers what their top priorities were. We had a couple of meetings on Wednesdays that involved webinars and putting in our priorities. My top priority was going to a 7 period day, adding counselors and doing away with the Wednesday early dismissal, but I am in the minority on that on 2 of those. From all the input the SEA received, they then figured out the most important topics and have been using that as the framework for this bargaining session.
Anonymous said…
@HP, so what, should people only agree to work for the minority of employers that offer more generous sick leave and vacation policies? Gosh, that would be nice!

Unfortunately, it's not a reality for most of us. Yes, many companies (and nonprofits and government agencies and small businesses and...) "screw over their workers" that way, and it sucks. I'm not sure that necessarily makes them "crappy companies" however, just as I'm not sure that working for SPS doesn't suck just because you get more leave.

Alsept Teresa said…

The survey only had certain answers. Yes you could rank them however, if you didn’t like any of the choices you had no other recourse. There were choices, but SEA limited them from the beginning- like we do with children.

There was one web-based meeting and if you could not make it then you had no other option.
Just like last year it seems pretty clear that SEA was not interested in hearing from all voices- just some. They did the same when they supported Amplify without talking to all science teachers. I have asked multiple times why however, I have still not received an answer

Anonymous said…
Team ster hit the nail on the head: better administrators, who are held accountable. Could somebody please focus on better administrators being held accountable. As Team ster writes: So better administrators are an important part of the solution. Instead we have principals like Emily Butler Ginolfi who create a climate in which mistreating kids is not just condoned, it's her explicit policy. And SPS is fine with it, and you hear nothing but silence from the SEA-SCPTSA-SEE crew about it."

Fascinating to listen to this dialog among teachers.

I used to think of support of schools as a three-legged stool with principal, teachers, and parents. And they were equal legs. I have long-since realized that you need a good principal or it just doesn't work. And it's sad when teachers go in their classrooms and feel they stand alone.

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