'We mean business': Seattle public school teachers picket amid contract negotiations

SEATTLE – Dozens of Seattle public school teachers and staff picketed outside the district's offices Wednesday, demanding a fair contract ahead of the start of a new school year.

Negotiations are still underway for the Seattle Education Association (SEA), which has 6,000 members. Wednesday marked the initial deadline for a tentative agreement that has not been met. Both sides went back to bargaining table Wednesday night.

“We want to show the district that we mean business,” said Derek Grandbois, an SEA bargaining team member. “Our priorities are to come to a tentative agreement that is supporting teachers and supporting students.”

Negotiations started back in May. The first day of school in Seattle is September 4.

 “They really intentionally started out early and set some deadlines because nobody, staff at the district, SEA, parents, families kids ... we all want to be ready to go,” said Amy Miller, a health teacher at Rainier Beach High School.

Miller is a 19-year veteran of the district and a third generation graduate of Seattle schools. She’s frustrated negotiations aren’t finished and worried the most vulnerable students in the classroom won’t have the support they need.

“Just related to social, emotional learning and how that’s a big focus,” said Miller. “Our ratios of counselors and psychologists and family support workers are embarrassing.”

A school district spokesperson said school budgets across the nation are getting tighter, and Seattle is no exception. This year the state only afforded the district with funding for a 2 percent pay increase.

“We want to continue to bargain on both sides and we’re optimistic that we can reach an agreement,” said Tim Robinson, spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools.

The bargaining team hopes to have a tentative agreement to bring to SEA members by next Tuesday’s general union meeting.