Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Seattle teachers voted to strike on Sept. 5 if their union and school district fail to reach a new contract agreement.
The date would be the first day of fall semester for Seattle's public schools, but the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Seattle Education Association could push back the start of classes. The strike was authorized Tuesday at a meeting of about 2,000 teachers, the Seattle Times reported. The association, representing about 6,000 educators, last went on strike for a five-day walkout in 2015.
The SEA is one of 180 teachers unions in Washington with contracts that need settled by the start of the school year, KOMO reported. The pending open contracts are the result of a Washington Supreme Court ruling that public education must be fully funded. Seattle Public Schools said the decision curbs its ability to allocate funding for teacher salaries. State legislators increased state property taxes, but local lawmakers, in response, cut local property taxes, the traditional source for additional school funding.
Late in 2017, the court determined state lawmakers did not go far enough in satisfying the original decision and ordered a plan to dedicate more school funding. School districts and teachers' unions across the state were ultimately left with about five months before the start of the term to allocate an extra $1 billion.
A strike in Seattle would be the latest in a string of recent teacher strikes and walkouts nationwide. Teacher strikes and walkouts have occurred this year in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia, largely over salary and funding disputes.
Across the country, teacher pay has stagnated in recent decades. Factoring in inflation, teachers in most states made lower wages in the 2016-17 school year than they did in the 1999-2000 term, data from the National Center for Education Statistics show.
The average American teacher made $58,950 during the 2016-17 school year, a 1.6 percent decrease from a decade and a half earlier, when they made $59,944 when adjusted for inflation.
Seattle teachers currently earn between $50,600 and $110,000. In the nearby Bellevue School District, contract negotiations resulted in teacher wages between $53,000 and $110,100. The lowest salaries offered to teachers in Lake Washington and Shoreline, other local districts with resolved contracts, are $55,900 and $62,100, respectively.