SEATTLE -- Teachers in Seattle are walking picket lines at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday after last-minute negotiations over wages and other issues failed to avert a strike, leaving thousands of students and parents in a lurch on what was supposed to be the first day of school.
School was to begin today for 53,000 students in Seattle Public Schools. Members of the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 5,000 teachers and support staff, voted to walk out after a contract agreement with the district wasn't reached.
Picket lines are expected at all of the district's 97 schools. This is the first time in 30 years teachers in the district have walked out, the Seattle Times reports.
Both sides remained far apart on several key issues, officials said, including pay raises, teacher evaluations and the length of the school day. The district has reportedly offered a $62 million proposal as a counter to a union proposal slated at $172 million.
Late Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools posted a message to their Facebook page regarding the strike:
The Seattle Education Association also posted to Facebook Tuesday, with a much more defiant message.
Seattle teachers walked into a special school board meeting Tuesday night to say no contract agreement had been reached and talks are finished for now.
"Our members are frustrated and angry and they want a settlement and they want to be respected, they want to be able to do their jobs teaching kids, and that has not been put on the table," said SEA Vice President Phyllis Campano. "What we're going to say is the pay is not competitive. The overall pay is not competitive. We really want a competitive pay that helps us attract and keep our caring, qualified, committed educators here."
The school district says they can only offer so much.
"We are funded by a funding model that I said before, that is profoundly broken. There's not enough dollars being put into the system," said Seattle School Board President Sherry Carr.
The school board voted to give the superintendent authority to take teachers to court to end the strike.
"We are committed to helping our superintendent get to a solution on this contract negotiation, we're taking the action he believes he needs in order to be successful," she said.
Teacher representative, however, called the lawsuit a "distraction."
Right now, there is no scheduled time for both sides to sit back down at the bargaining table. Both sides say they hope to resume negotiations soon.
Seattle parents are scrambling to make alternate plans now that school is canceled.
The city parks department was expanding before and after school care programs into all day offerings because of the strike and some community centers were also opening their doors.
Governor Jay Inslee released a statement about the strike, saying:
The teachers' frustration is real and understandable when they struggle to get students what they need to be successful. The parents' frustationand anxiety is understandable as school is supposed to have started. But long term we need an educational system that is adequately funded, provides the fair pay teachers deserve, and creates the conditions in the classroom that will allow students to succeed."