A week after classes were set to begin, thousands of students in Seattle are now starting the school year following a teachers’ strike.
Seattle Public Schools and the teachers’ union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Monday night.
On Tuesday evening, it was announced that the strike was lifted and all students, including preschool and kindergarten would start school.
Officials said the first day would not be an early release day; however, next Wednesday would begin the 75-minute early release schedule.
The contract has yet to be ratified by teachers and must also be approved by the school board.
SEA president Jennifer Matter spoke with KIRO 7 about the tentative agreement.
Although a tentative agreement has suspended the strike, Matter said the full text of the tentative agreement has not been completed, and the union is still working with the district on finalizing the language, as it must be accurate.
Matter told KIRO 7 that once all of the contract language has been looked over, then teachers and other union workers will have an opportunity to vote on it.
Full details of the contract are not yet public, but a summary obtained by the Seattle Times shows it includes a 7% pay increase for both certified and classified staff, year-to-year salary increases for inflation, and workload protections for teachers, counselors and social workers.
The five missed days of class will be made up at the end of the school year.
KIRO 7 also heard from Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones on the suspension of the strike and the students’ return to classroom.
Jones said that the technology, transportation, educators, instructors and school leaders are ready to receive the students, and he is “really pleased about that.”
He said that reaching a tentative agreement was not just the bargaining process, but it was also about supporting policies around what the district has been working on throughout the year, referencing a code governance model that is built around student outcomes. The tentative agreement, he said, was an extension of that.
“This year, we’re really focused on third grade reading, seventh grade math, and college and career readiness as our primary goals,” Jones said.
When asked why the bargaining process took so long, he responded, “This is democracy in action. We had some really deep issues. Seattle Public Schools has always been on the forefront in terms of equity. And so when we’re talking with our educators and we’re talking to leaders, we have philosophical differences sometimes in how we do that. So it took us longer than we wanted to, but here we are with a fantastic agreement.”