I support all the educators in the Seattle Education Association (SEA) who teach and guide the youth of Seattle. They are the best stewards of any education system. The district administration of Seattle Public Schools must listen to the union in their ongoing contract negotiations. Teachers and other educators deserve to be acknowledged for their important work. They need a good contract and they deserve it now, before school starts.
Educators and students have been neglected by the district while the state legislature has been held in contempt of court for failing to adequately fund education. Class sizes remain unmanageably large, and teachers have not seen a cost of living adjustment from Olympia in six years. Across the country education is under attack from charter schools, over-testing, the Common Core, union-busting legislation, and court cases that could strip public sector workers of basic union rights. It’s time to change this. I applaud the courage of the SEA members standing up for students and quality schools.
If the district leaves SEA members no alternative but to strike, they will have the support of students, parents, and the community. They have stood up for young people tirelessly, and we will stand with them.
For years the district administration has not responded to the growing concerns from educators or the community about the direction of education in Seattle. They continue a failed policy of high-stakes testing and use notoriously inaccurate results in teacher evaluations. Last year despite a tremendous outpouring of support, including by some School Board members, the administration persisted in closing Middle College High School at High Point. They have not addressed the epidemic of racial bias in student discipline, or the unconscionably insufficient resources for special education.
In every instance, teachers and other educators have led the fight to defend students and education. When Garfield High School teachers and parents boycotted the MAP test, the district responded by threatening teachers with suspensions. Only popular opposition to the test and the spread of the boycott to other schools forced the administration to back down.
Now as the SEA negotiates a new contract, all workers and education advocates in Seattle must show our support for educators. Many teachers in Seattle make less now in real terms than they did in 2008. Rather than offering to make up for all the sacrifices teachers made during the recession, the district is trying to force teachers to extend the work day by 30 minutes without pay. What other profession would consider that a reasonable request?
While standing up for reasonable working conditions, the union is also fighting for students, including the most vulnerable students who have been so neglected by the district. The SEA is demanding the district begin to address racial bias with equity teams and full recess time in all elementary schools. They are demanding caps on caseloads in special education, and limits to the outrageous time spent on high stakes tests.
People in Seattle have proved that we will support educators. We overwhelmingly passed I-1351 to fully fund education, and continually reapprove education levies. If the district forces educators to strike, we will support them. We will join them at any protests or rallies, march with them on their picket lines, knock on doors if needed, and donate to their strike funds. The district administration of Seattle Public Schools has a duty to offer the union a decent contract so Seattle can start school on time!