Seattle teachers strike averted: Union, district reach tentative contract agreement

SEATTLE – The Seattle teachers union and the school district reached a tentative contract agreement Friday night, which paves the way for classes to start as scheduled on Wednesday morning.

"We are excited to share that the Seattle Education Association and district have reached a tentative contract agreement," Seattle Public Schools said on its website. "School will begin on Wed., Sept. 5 for 1st through 12 grade students and Mon., Sept. 10 for kindergarten students.

"The SEA general assembly will vote on the proposed contract on Sat., Sept. 8."

No details of the agreement were immediately released, but teachers were looking for large pay raises. Teachers in other school districts in the state have been getting double-digit increases.

Phyllis Campano, president of the Seattle Education Association (SEA), said the tentative agreement was reached at 9:36 p.m. Friday after intense negotiations. She said there had been movement on both sides over the past couple of days. She said the union leadership "is hopeful" members will ratify the agreement on Sept. 8.

Seattle teachers had voted Tuesday night to authorize a strike unless an agreement was reached with the state's largest district by the time school starts Sept. 5.

“I think anything is possible,” Phyllis Campano, president of the Seattle Education Association (SEA), had said on Tuesday. “There are three other districts that are on strike, we understand there are two more possibly going today and then there are 180 other districts still negotiating. So this is really a statewide issue."

But the SEA says this year negotiations have stalled on teacher’s pay.

“We know there is money to build competitive salaries to keep educators here,” said Campano.

It may seem like déjà vu because Seattle teachers did strike back in 2015.

This time around, even after the Legislature ponied up more money for teacher salaries statewide, union leaders in Seattle claim the high cost of living means attracting and retaining new teachers in the state’s largest district has become more difficult.

The Seattle Education Association believes lawmakers may have to pony up even more cash for teachers to keep this from happening again.

“I think maybe in November we need to go back to the drawing board at the Legislature so this doesn’t happen again."