A Seattle strike over pay and classroom size has pushed the start of school back for public school students.
Teacher strikes are becoming more prevalent in America. As inflation continues to drive the cost of living up, and schools are exposed for severe findings that detail a lack of support systems in place for both educators and students alike, more unions are authorizing strikes as they feel their needs aren’t being met. It’s happened in other areas across the nation already this year, and now it’s happening in Seattle, as teachers strike the first day of classes.
Some 50,000 students attending Seattle public schools were set to start a new school year this morning. But instead, they were told to stay home, as the Seattle teacher’s strike began in the early hours. Negotiations are underway, and both district and union officials are hopeful that a deal can be met to quickly reopen schools. However, there are a plethora of demands on the union’s plate.
Pay is often the cause of U.S. strikes, and this Seattle strike is no different. According to reports from The Associated Press, the district had offered the teachers union pay raises 1% higher than the increases state lawmakers set to adjust for inflation. Additionally, they offered one-time bonuses for select third-year teachers in the district. However, this offer was much lower than union members hoped for. The cost of living is 36% higher in the Emerald City than throughout the rest of Washington.
Staffing ratios and class sizes were also a concern that led to the Seattle strike. This was especially an issue in special education classrooms. In some special education classes, paraprofessionals aren’t given laptops to work from. The union is asking for more support to prevent educator burnout.
According to information regarding the teacher strike on the union’s website, most district educators work more hours than they are required to. A quarter of them reports working more than 10 additional hours each week. Adding more classroom support and recognizing good work with extra pay is a major request for the overwhelming majority of union members who voted to authorize the strike.
The Seattle teacher strike isn’t the only of its kind to disrupt the first day of learning this year. Nearby in Kent, teachers’ union members picketed during a strike that delayed the first day of school. Similarly, this one was also fought over pay and classroom size. After eight days of negotiations, that strike may soon be ending as the district and union officials have struck a tentative deal.
Across the country in Ohio, students were forced to start the school year virtually. The Columbus teachers’ union had been debating contract negotiations for months to no avail and authorized a strike that began before the first day of school. After a week, the picketing ceased, and school commenced as negotiations found the two opposing sides meeting in the middle.
In a statement sent out to families announcing the Seattle strike, the district announced that school meals would still be served and that they would help families in need find daily child care during this time. Both school officials and union leaders remain hopeful that they can quickly come to an agreement on the new contract, and allow educators and children to return to classrooms.