‘The teachers remain on strike. The picket lines are united. And support among parents is strong.’
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That is the latest message from Seattle Education Association on Friday, as classes were cancelled for the third day amid the continuation of a strike demanding an unfreezing of wages, the end of unreasonable standardized testing for students, a more fair evaluation system for teachers, and new policies to increase equity among students.
“There’s nothing new to report,” said Michael Tamayo, one of the negotiators for the SEA, on Thursday afternoon after face-to-face meetings with school district representatives failed to materialize. “They know what our proposals are and we’re just waiting for some feedback and movement from them.”
As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, the position of the Seattle educators is notable because it goes beyond simple demands for higher wages and improved working conditions. The teachers have outlined “incredible list of educational reforms” seeking to address systemic problems—reforms that, according to Garfield High School history teacher Jesse Hagopian, would “truly improve the lives of children” throughout the city.
Offering its support, the progressive education group Rethinking Schools sent an open letter to Seattle teachers praising their tough stand.
“Seattle educators have said ‘Enough!’,” the letter reads. “You have bargained in good faith and now are striking for your members, for your students, for the broader community—and, really, for people everywhere who are working for vital public schools and social justice.”
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With a community day of service planned by the teachers union for Friday, its members say they are eager to get back to the classroom but that the union’s fight remains focused on improving the lives of its members and all 53,000 students within the district.
“I’m ready to go on day one,” McClure Middle School teacher Mary Whisenhunt told the local Fox News 13 news channel. “I’m ready to go. I could teach tomorrow if we got a contract.”
However, she continued, “This is highly skilled work that we do that requires a lot of education. Many of us can’t afford to live in the city. I’m seriously considering moving out of the city. As a younger teacher coming with student loans from my master’s degree, it’s a struggle.”
Laura Lehni, a teacher in the district and member of the union’s bargaining team, told the Seattle Times she feels like there hasn’t been mutual trust throughout the talks, and that the union is still fighting to make teacher evaluations more consistent, to make changes to standardized testing, and to provide more training for school staff to address social equity.
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