Teachers strike delays start of school year for 50,000 students in Seattle

Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Roughly 50,000 schoolchildren in Seattle will miss another day of classes on Monday due to an ongoing teachers strike that's postponing the start of the new school year over multiple grievances.

Seattle Public Schools, Washington's largest district, failed to reach an agreement on a new teachers contract over the weekend.


The 2022-23 school year in the city was supposed to begin last Wednesday, but more than 6,000 teachers in the Seattle Education Association walked off the job -- mostly over complaints about teachers' pay and a lack of scholastic support for children with special needs.

"There will be no school on Monday, Sept. 12, for all grades including preschool and kindergarten," the district said Sunday in an email to families, according to KIRO-TV.

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"Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association are making progress on negotiations but have not yet reached an agreement. We continue to bargain and remain ready to start school as soon as an agreement is reached."


School officials had previously planned to tell families by Friday if school was going to be canceled for a fourth day, but the final word didn't come until Sunday, which left some working parents scrambling to find childcare.

The district said it would give the next update on Monday afternoon regarding the status for classes on Tuesday.

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The teachers walked off the job demanding better pay, smaller class sizes and more assistance with special and multilingual education. During negotiations, both sides found common ground on minor details, but were said to be far apart on salary and expanding special education programs and the number of school counselors and social workers.

The district has already turned down a union proposal to assure one social worker for every 250 students, which is the ratio recommended by the National Association of Social Workers.

The role is typically understaffed and existing social workers are buried under heavy caseloads and, in some cases, are working with hundreds of students.

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Despite the stalemate, union members have said they believe the district is serious about meeting their demands.

District officials have also expressed optimism that a deal could be reached and said the weekend negotiations were "extremely productive."


"Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association are making good progress on negotiations. The bargaining teams are working late into the evening," Beverly Redmond, the district assistant superintendent of public affairs, said according to KIRO-TV.

"We are optimistic an agreement will be reached so our students can begin school as soon as possible."

Some in Seattle have banded together in response. Boys & Girls Clubs across the region are offering free educational programs for children until the schools reopen, but space for students at the clubs is rapidly shrinking as the strike drags on.

During every day of the pause, Parent Teacher Student Associations and other community groups have promised to give out free student lunches at dozens of centers and parks in the city. Some children from lower income households depend on school lunch for nutrition.

Also, city officials have set up recreation hubs at nearly a dozen community centers in the area where students can spend the day at no cost. Rotary clubs have also been tapped to create programs for students during the strike.

The Seattle teachers strike follows a nine-day labor walkout by teachers in the nearby Kent School District, who agreed to a new contract last week. Kent is located about 20 miles southeast of downtown Seattle.


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