Seattle’s public schools will remain closed for a second day on Thursday as thousands of teachers continue their strike over a labor dispute. However, in the latest development toward a solution, both sides have agreed to come to the negotiating table on Thursday morning.
Classes for 53,000 Seattle public school students were canceled after negotiations over pay hikes, teacher evaluations and the length of the school days broke down, leading the Seattle Education Association, which represents about 5,000 teachers and support staff, to declare the first public school teacher strike in Seattle in 30 years.
"Our goal here is to make them feel like they're getting what they deserve," District spokeswoman Stacy Howard said at a press conference Wednesday, according to local news station KING 5. "We're hoping for a quick resolution."
The teachers' union had called for a pay hike of 18 percent over three years, rejecting an offer of 7 percent over three years. Howard said that the authorities have made a new counteroffer of 14 percent over three years, along with other concessions.
"Our most recent counter-offer included adding 20 minutes of student instructional time beginning in the third year of the contract," she said. "We are not extending the teacher work day."
She added that no legal action has been planned against the striking teachers.
The walkout comes as Seattle’s teachers have gone six years without a cost-of-living adjustment, which many say has left them increasingly unable to afford housing in a city where property values are rapidly rising. The average rent for primary residences in the city has risen by over 5 percent since June last year to the same month this year.
Salaries range from about $44,000 to over $85,000 for experienced teachers with advanced degrees, according to the Associated Press.
The strike also comes amid other troubles being faced by Washington state’s school system. Most recently, the state's highest court declared that several laws underpinning the state’s new charter school system were unconstitutional. The court ordered a 20-day timeline for dismantling the charter system, which applies to schools that are publicly funded but privately run.
The state is also facing a $100,000 a day fine after a state Supreme Court ruling found that lawmakers have not adequately funded the education of the state’s 1 million schoolchildren.