Seattle Public School Teachers on Strike

Seattle Public School students were not able to start school yesterday as they had planned. Instead, the school year was extended unexpectedly due to strikes by teachers.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) began its strike on September 7, demanding higher teacher-to-student ratios, particularly in special needs and multilingual classrooms, laptops for teaching assistants, and—naturally—higher pay.

According to the union’s website, 93 percent of its members are working longer than what is required or contracted. Meanwhile, 25% of its members spend an additional 10 hours per work week. SEA claims that “the cost to live in Seattle is on the rise, there are more teachers than ever, and we’re not getting paid as much.” Seattle Public Schools (SPS), therefore, “must pay respectable wages to all staff and address unacceptable low wages for Education Support Professionals.”

But public employee salaries are searchable for the state of Washington, and some 40 percent of SPS’ full-time teachers actually make more than $100,000 per year, according to 2020–21 salary data reported by The Center Square This database is easily searched. SPS teachers are paid a salary based on their tenure and education. They work 7.5 hours per day (37.5 hours per week) and have a shorter work year than the average worker in the private sector. This does not include pension benefits. These can vary depending on how many years they have been in the system.

It’s unclear what about these wages aren’t “respectful,” but they are, nevertheless, one of the major sticking points—emphasized repeatedly in materials the union has provided on its strike—that is preventing some 50,000 students and families from starting the school year.

Many teachers now have to make up the lost time due to COVID school closings. Teachers unions were instrumental in pushing for this extension. Teachers will have to deal with learning loss this school year, as around 40% of Washington State’s K-4 students are not proficient in reading.

Still, while public employees attempt to negotiate pay and working conditions they want, it’s public school parents who are left in the lurch, with no viable alternatives and no real means of holding their school district accountable—other than by taking the drastic step of pulling kids out of public school entirely, a threat more and more parents have made good on over the last two years.

“I went from cheerleading for public schools, to believing in school choice,” one Seattle parent who wishes to remain anonymous tells Reason. “All faith that I once had in public-sector unions is gone. She says that top-of-the-scale teachers make a lot more money than me as a senior tech worker. However, she admits that she did not always feel like this, but the poor quality of SPS instruction over the years is disheartening.

My kid shouldn’t be playing on the couch, but in her second year of senior years.