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No School In Seattle Monday, But District Makes New Offer In Weekend Contract Talks

Kyle Stokes
Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp prepares for a press conference before a benefit concert for striking teachers at The Neptune in Seattle's University District.

Seattle Public Schools negotiators offered to attach a pay increase onto a plan to lengthen the school day for students during talks with the district's striking school employees this weekend, bending to a union demand that has been a stumbling block in talks on a new teacher contract.

But there's still no deal, district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said Sunday, meaning there will again be no school for the district's 53,000 students on Monday.

Neither Howard nor union leaders would say by how much the district would increase teacher pay as part of its plan to convert 20 minutes of teacher prep time into extra classroom time students, but the union's lead negotiator, Phyllis Campano, said the pay boost was "not enough."

Under terms of the offer, Seattle Public Schools officials would meet twice monthly with union representatives over the next two years to hash out the details of lengthening the school day. But Campano said the district's proposal gives superintendent Larry Nyland the final say in allocating those 20 minutes, which the union can't support.

'We're Worth The Money'

Union officials also announced Sunday they had given up more ground on salary, proposing a two-year contract with more modest raises: 4.75 percent in the first year and 5 percent in the second year. 

Credit Kyle Stokes / KPLU
Seattle Education Association members and their supporters picket outside Garfield High School during a teachers strike.

"The strategy is to get our kids back in the classroom. That's what we want," Campano said of the smaller request. "We know that we're worth the money. We work really hard, we hope the district sees their way to an agreement on money."

As of last week, district officials had been seeking teacher pay increases of 2 percent, 3.2 percent and 4 percent in a three-year deal.

Union officials said the two sides remain at odds over plans to create equity teams in district schools — the union wants 20 or 30 teams; the district wants five or six, Campano said — and over proposals to change the district's testing policy, among other issues.

The work stoppage has now gone on long enough that it will begin to impact the school calendar, Howard said.

The strike has now used up the three make-up days Seattle Public Schools built into this year's academic calendar for snow days or other school-closing emergencies. The district may have to explore adjusting high school graduation dates or shortening holiday breaks, Howard said.

Progress? Or 'Movement'?

After three days away from the table last week, union and district negotiating teams met for marathon bargaining sessions through the weekend.

The teams met at length Saturday and Sunday afternoon. After wrapping up a press conference at a music venue in the University District around 6 p.m., Campano said she was leaving to return to Seattle Public Schools headquarters in the SoDo neighborhood to hear another proposal from the district.

"Yesterday was a good sign," Howard said, "but we want our teachers to be happy. We want our students to be happy in all of this. We need to be fiscally sound in all this — I know I keep saying this, but it's the truth, and that's what makes this so complex."

Campano, the Seattle Education Association's vice president, said she wouldn't characterize the weekend's activity as "progress."

Her word? "Movement."

This post was updated at 8 p.m. PDT.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.