Seattle Public Schools will start on time next week, after educators voted to accept a contract that ensures pay increases for the next three years.
Members of the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 6,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, office professionals and other school employees, approved their contracts during a membership meeting, the union said in a statement. Office professionals approved their contract by 98 percent, paraprofessionals approved theirs by 92 percent, and teachers and other certificated educators approved their contract by 88 percent.
Certificated teachers will receive a 5 percent raise this coming school year, a 2.1 percent increase the following year and a 4 percent raise in the 2021-22 school year. Paraprofessionals, such as instructional assistants and family support workers, will receive a 5 percent bump this year, followed by 2.1 percent and 5 percent.
Bargaining this year has been less dramatic than in 2018, when teachers went on strike in a record number of school districts. That came amid disputes with district officials over how to use additional funds from the state, which adopted a new school-funding system to end the long-running McCleary lawsuit.
Still, this year hasn’t been completely smooth – school failed to start on time in Kennewick and Toutle Lake after educators in both of those districts went on strike.
Last year, Seattle educators came close to going on strike before reaching a one-year contract that included a 10.5 percent pay increase.
The tentative agreement in Seattle also includes a number of items aimed at better meeting the needs of students of color. For example, according to the union’s summary, the agreement includes “mandatory professional development for building administrators regarding hiring educators of color.”
Questions about racial equity will be mandatory in the interview process, and the union says there will be “increased opportunities and access for students and families of color to be on interview teams.”
The Seattle district has been trying to address racial disparities in education, but big gaps remain in everything from out-of-school suspensions to test scores. About 80 percent of classroom teachers in Seattle are white, while 47 percent of the student population is white.