School canceled for 4th day as Seattle teachers strike

SEATTLE (AP) — There's no school in Seattle for a fourth day Monday as a strike by teachers enters its second week.

The strike, over issues that include pay raises and the length of the school day, has delayed the start of the public school year for about 53,000 students. The sides resumed negotiations Saturday and continued to talk Sunday. The union made a counterproposal on salary that called for raises totaling 9.5 percent over two years — a far cry from the 21 percent over three years they initially sought.

"We want to get kids back in school, and we want to show good faith," Seattle Education Association Vice President Phyllis Campano said Sunday evening.

Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Stacy Howard said Sunday the strike, which began Sept. 9, will affect the school year calendar, because it has already eaten up the three snow days the district set aside. The district will have to consider shortening holiday breaks or adding days at the end of the school year. Graduation dates could also be delayed, she said.

Seattle's teachers went six years without a cost-of-living raise after the Legislature failed to come up with money for them, but the district said it provided raises totaling 8 percent out of local levy money in that time. The paltry raises have made it tough to live in Seattle, where the cost of living has been rising thanks in part to the influx of highly paid tech workers, many teachers say.

Teacher salaries in Seattle range from about $44,000 to more than $86,000 for more experienced educators with advanced degrees.

This year, lawmakers — facing a court order to increase spending on education — came up with money for new teachers and supplies. Some $37 million of that money is coming to Seattle. The district says it has offered raises totaling 14 percent over three years, but it also wants to extend the school day by 20 minutes, arguing that Seattle has one of the shortest instructional days of any schools in the state, at 6 hours and 10 minutes.

The Seattle Education Association faulted the district for waiting until mid-August to introduce such a complex proposal and said it would essentially have forced the teachers to work that extra time for free. Over the weekend, the district offered to pay teachers for the added instructional minutes, Howard said. The sides could negotiate over how to use the extra 20 minutes, she said.

Neither the district nor the union released details on how much the additional pay would amount to, but at a news conference late Sunday afternoon, the union called it "not enough."

"There is still time that's not accounted for," Campano said. "We want them to come back with a serious proposal on that."

She said the union had not had time to review the proposal thoroughly, and that other issues also continued to be sticking points, including teacher evaluations and too much standardized testing.

Several local musicians were staging a fundraiser Sunday night at Seattle's Neptune Theater for the striking teachers and support staff.

Across the state in Pasco, school officials on Sunday reached a tentative contract agreement with striking teachers. The details of the agreement were confidential pending a ratification vote by the Pasco Association of Educators on Monday. The union's 1,160 teachers walked off the job on Sept. 1, which would have been the first day of school for the district's 17,000 students.