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School to Start on Time in Seattle, Snoqualmie, South Kitsap

The school year will begin on Wednesday for students in Seattle, Snoqualmie, and south Kitsap County after their teachers reached last-minute agreements with their respective districts Tuesday.

Late Tuesday, the Seattle Education Association voted to approve a two-year agreement reached with the school district over the weekend. The contract includes a longer work day for some, as well as higher pay. 

Teachers will get a 5-percent pay raise over the next two years—the largest pay raise they’ve received in the past five years. The higher wage means Seattle teachers can continue to deliver a quality education, says Jonathan Knapp of the Seattle Education Association.

"People come to Seattle to get started in their career, but then they leave and go somewhere else because they have better pay. So this helps us retain excellent teachers,” Knapp said.

As part of the new contract, the district will also add nine more psychologists and occupational and speech therapists. Elementary school teachers will also work an extra half hour each day, which means they’ll work as much as their middle- and high-school counterparts currently work.

One of the thorniest sticking points proved to be whether student test scores would be used to evaluate teachers. The answer is yes, but the district agreed to tweak the kinds of test scores that will get used.

Meantime, the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association agreed to work under the conditions of their expired contract until they reach an agreement, the district announced Tuesday evening. 

A mediator will facilitate the negotiations over class size and compensation, the district said. The next negotiating session was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. The teachers will strike if no new agreement is reached by 3 p.m. Sunday. 

Teachers in south Kitsap County voted earlier Tuesday to approve a new three-year contract.