A Seattle teachers’ union said that it planned to hold its first teachers' strike in 30 years Wednesday, the day classes are scheduled to restart, after negotiations broke down with employers. The Seattle Education Association, which represents about 5,000 teachers and support staff, were set to picket all 97 public schools in the city, leading to class being canceled for 53,000 Seattle public school students on the first scheduled day of classes.
"Nobody really wants to strike, but at this point the school board has not come to the table with a serious proposal to get it done," union vice president Phyllis Campano said, according to the Associated Press.
The talks broke down with both sides still disagreeing on several major issues, including pay hikes, teacher evaluations and the length of the school day. The school district had previously offered a raise of almost 9 percent over three years, which the union countered with a proposed 10.5 percent hike over two years.
The strike comes three days after Washington 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.
The new ruling on charter schools have seen parents and officials, who support publicly funded but privately managed schools, enter the public battle for funding alongside those who are pushing for more funding for traditionally managed public schools. “We are now firmly on that chess table,” Thomas Franta, chief executive of the Washington State Charter Schools Association, told the New York Times.
The state is also facing a $100,000-a-day sanction after a state supreme court ruling which found that lawmakers failed to adequately fund the education of the state’s 1 million school children. The Washington Supreme Court found in 2012 that state funding for education was insufficient and accused the state of relying on local budgets to compensate for an inadequate statewide budget.
However, Rich Wood, a spokesman for the Washington Education Association, told the AP that the new strikes were mostly related to local issues and had little to do with the larger statewide debates about funding. "The negotiations are about meeting the needs of students in school districts," Wood said.
Meanwhile, the Seattle School Board also moved on Tuesday to authorize the district superintendent to take legal action against striking teachers.