Tukwila teachers reach deal with school district a day before they planned to strike

UPDATE: The Tukwila Education Association has reached a deal with the school district, a day before teachers were set to strike.

TEA members will hold a general membership meeting Friday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. to vote on whether to ratify the tentative agreement. Details of the tentative agreement will not be released prior to the meeting.

TUKWILA, Wash. -- The Tukwila Education Association said teachers would strike if negotiations were not met on increased compensation and special education contracts. Teachers and administrators with the Tukwila School District met Wednesday for final negotiations towards a potential agreement.

TEA president, Brian Siegal, said teachers would strike, Friday, if both parties did not reach an agreement by Wednesday night.

“We all want to be here on Friday. No one ever wants to strike—teachers, the district. We want to be here. We’re trying our best to get there. But we feel like this is what we have to do to support our students,” said Siegel.

Parents in the community said if the potential strike happened, it would interrupt the new school year for thousands of students.

“It’s our children’s future at stake here. So, I just hope it gets settled and everybody does the right thing,” said Robert Worthy, whose daughter is a student in the district.

“It’s good for the teachers because they need to get paid what they deserve. But it’s bad for the parents because we have to go to work and who’s going to watch our kids?” said Maria Avila, who has children in the district.

Tukwila teachers went on strike about compensation during the 2018-2019 school year. Siegel said this year, higher pay for all teachers, as well as better contracts for special education students,  were under negotiation.

“We want to feel valued, we want to feel appreciated. And district leaders have to understand that dollars are replaceable, but experienced teachers, once they leave they don’t come back,” said Siegel. “Our number one priority is to provide our kids with the best education, so they can achieve the most amount of growth. And to do that you need quality people in the classrooms. And the only way that’s going to happen is to retain and attractive folks with competitive salary packages.”

“I feel greatly appreciated that they’re actually not just fighting for themselves but they’re fighting for their students,” said Alexandra Nicole Willard, a high school senior in Tukwila.

TEA represents nearly 300 teachers. Siegel said for the last nine months, they went back and forth with the district to reach a compromise.

“We want compensation that’s comparable and competitive with the districts that surround us—that being Seattle, Highline and Renton,” said Siegel. “It’s a decision about dollars versus experienced staff. And up to this point, they’ve been leaning to the dollar side of the argument of watching the budget.”

The Tukwila School District said, in a written statement, that the district wants to support teachers as much as it reasonably can sustain. The full statement reads:

“We truly appreciate and will support our staff as much as the Tukwila School District can reasonably sustain. The District appreciates that the bargaining teams are continuing to negotiate in good faith this year. Unlike some of our surrounding school districts, the change in local levy collections was proportionately more impactful and Tukwila is on the negative end of state and local revenue. At this time, the Tukwila School District will not comment on particular proposals involved in the bargaining process. We are hopeful that our bargaining teams can reach an agreement that will not interrupt the instruction of our students.”

Siegel said teachers were hopeful an agreement would be reached. He added, however, they would be prepared to strike Friday until there is a resolution.