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Seattle public school teachers strike

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The school year didn’t start as planned yesterday for Seattle public school students who have been given an impromptu extension to their summer vacation due to teachers on strike.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) began its strike on Sept. 7, demanding higher teacher-to-pupil ratios, particularly in special needs and multilingual classrooms, teaching assistant laptops and — of course — higher wages.

The union notes on its website that 93 percent of its members “work more than our assigned or contracted hours,” while a quarter of its members log an additional 10 hours a week. Meanwhile, “Seattle’s cost of living is rising, teacher shortages are widening and our wages are not keeping pace,” SEA said. Accordingly, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) must “pay all employees respectful wages and address the unacceptably low wages for educational support professionals.”

But public employee salaries are searchable for Washington state, and about 40 percent of SPS’s full-time teachers earn more than $100,000 a year, according to the 2020-21 salary data reported by The Center Square (and easily searchable through this database). The pay scale for SPS teachers, which varies by employment and level of education, ranges from about $60,000 to $123,500 per year for 7.5-hour workweeks (37.5-hour workweeks) and a shorter work year than people in the private sector typically to endure. That excludes retirement benefits, which can be quite generous depending on how many years teachers log into the system.

It’s unclear why these wages aren’t “respectful,” but they’re nonetheless one of the main sticking points — highlighted repeatedly in material the union provided during its strike — preventing about 50,000 students and families from starting school every year.

To be sure, many teachers are now tasked with making up for lost class time due to the COVID schools closing (something teacher unions played no small part in lobbying to expand). Coping with the challenge of learning loss, with about 40 percent of K-4 students in Washington state not reading at the classroom level, this school year will be no small feat for teachers.

But as officials try to negotiate the pay and benefits they want, it is public school parents who are being abandoned, with no viable alternatives and no real means of holding their school district accountable — except through the drastic move. to get kids out of public school altogether, a threat that more and more parents have lived up to over the past two years.

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