Seattle public school teachers reject district's contract offer

SEATTLE -- "I believe there will be a strike.  I'm willing to do what I need to do, even though I know there will be consequences at the household,” Seattle teacher Donte Felder said

That was Felder before the teachers' meeting started. It lasted 90 minutes and, while there was no vote to strike, Seattle public school teachers did vote to reject the district's latest contract offer on the advice of union leadership, which already rejected the proposal.

Still, there is optimism.

"There's lots of time still to get to an agreement.  We hope a strong statement tonight will send the district back to the bargaining table with some more flexibility on the issues that we haven't been able to get an agreement on,” Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp said.

The sticking points include a district proposal for elementary teachers to work longer days after students leave the classroom.

The union says that is time for which the teachers won't get paid while at the same time the district wants to eliminate supplemental pay those teachers get now.

The union says that amounts to a pay cut.

Compensation is another big issue.

The district is offering a 4% salary increase over the next two years and full restoration of a 1.3% salary reduction that was mandated by the Legislature.

But union leaders say that is simply not enough to keep up with the high and rising cost of living in Seattle.

Also at issue; caseloads for educators and staff associates and lastly teacher evaluations.

"I think our requests are all reasonable and the district says no, it means they're certainly not listening to what's happening in the schools and creating the best environment for teachers and kids,” Seattle teacher Edith Ruby said.

Superintendent Jose Banda released a statement saying:

“We remain committed to the negotiation process. We are confident the bargaining teams will be able to craft solutions that keep student success the priority and meet the needs of both sides.”

Teachers hope so, too, because a strike could be financially devastating for many.

"We could probably weather a few weeks and then we'd be tapped out,” Seattle teacher Kathy Saxon said.