An Open Letter to Dr. Nyland and the Seattle School Board in Support of Our Striking School Bus Drivers

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By choosing to use drivers who have crossed the picket lines to staff the prioritized Title One school and special education routes, the district is siding with First Student and is weakening the power of the workers as they fight for their rights.

Dear Dr. Nyland and Directors,

During this historical Black Lives Matter at Schools Week as I sing your praises for committing to our students, staff and families of color, I must also publicly condemn your disrespect for the striking bus drivers of Teamsters 174 who work for First Student. My children have been attending Seattle Public Schools for 9 years and the majority of their drivers have been people of color-all of the aides we’ve had on our buses over the years have been people of color. The school bus drivers are being systemically oppressed by their employer, First Student, who is a multinational corporation with over $6 billion in profits last year and yet refuses to even return to the table to negotiate fair health care benefits.

By choosing to use drivers who have crossed the picket lines to staff the prioritized Title One school and special education routes, the district is siding with First Student and is weakening the power of the workers as they fight for their rights. When I was in second grade, in September of 1976, our teachers were on strike for 10 days and the District brought in substitutes. My mother worked for the phone company and was a union member of Communications Workers of America. I loved school and wanted to go, but my mother explained to me why we must support our teachers and never cross a picket line. When my children’s teachers were out on strike in 2015, my children and I joined them on the picket line out in front of our school. I remember how my kindergartener cried telling her new teacher how much she wanted to be inside the school. Her teacher replied, “We all do; that’s why we are out here fighting for a fair contract, so we can get back inside doing what we love to do. Teaching kids!” My daughters know that if their route is restored during the strike they will not be able to ride. As a licensed child care worker and a member of SEIU 925, my students will not break the line.

I am so grateful that our educators as part of their union, Seattle Education Association, will be joining our bus drivers on the picket lines Wednesday after school. Our teachers know what an integral part these drivers play in the lives of the 12,000 students they safely transport to and from school each day. These teachers respect the drivers and believe that the drivers deserve access to the same health care benefits as district staff receive.

When the District tries to remain neutral as First Student pays drivers to cross the picket lines, the District is actually publicly siding with First Student. First Student offered drivers a full day’s pay, free lunch and a per diem that started at $25 in the beginning of the strike and is now being raised to $50! If First Student can afford such costly incentives, why not invest in their drivers by paying them a fair wage and offering competitive health care benefits?

The District has refused to take responsibility for the driver’s situation citing the excuse that First Student was the only bidder for transportation services. Even if there is only one bidder for contracted services the District must take steps to insure that the contractor will be a fair employer who is in step with the culture of the district. In our school district we believe in offering a competitive wage so that workers can live in the city where they work. Our community also believes that workers have the right to health care coverage.

At schools across the city many special education students have not been able to attend since the strike began. At my daughters’ school with over 500 students being dropped off and picked up in individual vehicles, traffic and safety issues have occurred. This strike is creating unsustainable conditions and hardship for many families. I urge you to reverse your current position of encouraging drivers to cross the picket lines, and publicly condemn First Student for their unethical treatment of their employees. Please bring both sides back to the table, put pressure on First Student to offer fair health care coverage and end this strike quickly.

Thank you,
Shawna Murphy
Mother of 2 SPS students
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Seattle teachers considering a strike over school funding

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by Jesse Hagopian 

Originally posted in the South Seattle Emerald.

Turning the Streets Into Our Classroom

By Wednesday this week every school in Seattle will have held a union vote to decided if our Seattle Education Association (SEA) should go out on strike on May Day—International Worker’s Day—to demand full funding for education, to support our immigrant students, and to defend union rights.

I am voting yes!—and I hope that the rest of the educators join me in authorizing this walkout for the schools our students deserve.

Here in Washington State, our state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary decision that our state legislature was in violation of the state Constitution’s “Paramount Duty” to amply provide for education.  The court has fined the legislature and found them in contempt of court for failing to support public education.  And yet we have seen our legislature continue to funnel money to the wealthiest corporations in our state, giving away billions in tax breaks to Boeing and maintaining tax loopholes for the rich.  Washington State is one of only a few states without an income tax and ranks dead last with most regressive tax structure in the nation.  The year 2017 was the final year that the state Supreme Court gave the legislature to fix the funding problem and it is clear that the legislature has no plans to start following the law anytime soon.

We have tried emailing, calling and asking nicely for the legislature to follow the law and fund education. That hasn’t worked.

Now it’s time to show the collective power of labor.  We held a one-day walkout two years ago as part of a rolling strike wave across the state to pressure the state legislature. That was an important action that raised awareness, brought families into the streets with teachers in a common struggle, and gave teachers a glimpse of their power.  But this one-day strike has the potential to have a much bigger impact than the last because the Martin Luther King County Labor Council passed a resolution calling on all the locally affiliated unions to go out on May Day. As the Seattle Weekly reported,

SEA isn’t the only union flirting with a May Day strike. UAW Local 4121 is also voting on strike action, according to the op-ed. (We’ve got a line out to the union.) And the Martin Luther King County Labor Council voted last week in favor of a resolution supporting strikes and other direct actions (for instance, teach-ins) on May Day in cooperation with organizers of the labor and immigrant marches.

Many unions are looking to the SEA to see if we strike. If we do, others could follow and it could become a mass outpouring of labor solidarity that truly has the power to shake up the one percent and their political representatives in the legislature and make them heed our demands for education and union rights.

In addition to the urgency around education funding in our state, the May 1st Coalition in Seattle has called on workers to strike for immigrant rights on May Day, and there will be a massive outpouring of humanity at a rally that day to stand against Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. All the anti-immigrant rhetoric and deportations are demoralizing our students, splitting them apart from their families, and leading to hate crimes. Moreover, there is a push by the Trump administration and within the federal government to ratify anti-union, so-called “right to work” legislation, that would gut union protections.

I am voting to strike because I believe we as educators should join the struggle for immigrant rights and I see that as a vital component to a better education system.

I’m not content to teach students about the mass strikes and boycotts of the past that won social programs and the right to unionize–I know we actually need to bring back that history and make it real for our students by demonstrating what it looks like in practice. I’m ready to make the streets my classroom on the first of May and teach a lesson about union power and collective struggle that the rich and powerful won’t soon forget.

Jesse Hagopian is a teacher at Garfield High School, an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, and was a leader in the historic boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test of 2013.

 

Related articles:

Seattle Councilmembers Sawant and O’Brien: “If teachers go on Strike on May 1, We’ll Have Your Back!”

Seattle Weekly: Seattle Teachers to Vote On Possible May Day Strike

Submitted by Dora Taylor

The Seattle Education Association endorses the Black Lives Matter at School action

Re-posted from I Am an Educator:

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#BlackLivesMatterAtSchool: Hundreds of educators across Seattle to wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school on Oct. 19th

Educators in Seattle are starting off the school year dressed for success.

In the fist action of this scale, many hundreds of Seattle teachers, counselors, instructional assistants, paraprofessionals, custodians, nurses, and other educators, will wear shirts to school on Wednesday, October 19th, that read, “Black Lives Matter.” This action is part of a Seattle Education Association sponsored day to draw attention to the school-to-prison-pipeline and institutional racism our society. Already over 700 educators and supports have ordered their shirts!

Educators at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary first conceived of this action and announced they would wear shirts to school on September 16 that read, “Black Lives Matter. We Stand Together. John Muir Elementary.” This was to coincide with an event to celebrate Black students that was organized by Black Men United to Change the Narrative. As third grade teacher Marjorie Lamarre told King 5 News at the time, “To be silent would be almost unforgivable, and I think we have been silent for almost too long.” Yet the forces of hate tried their best to silence the John Muir community as a white supremacist issued a bomb threat on the school and the event was officially cancelled. However, in a truly stunning show of courage, dozens of Black community members heeded the call of Black Men United To Change the Narrative and showed up to high five the students that morning and the John Muir staff wore the shirts anyway!

This bold action prompted the Social Equality Educators (SEE) to introduce a resolution at the Seattle Education Association to support John Muir and make a call for educators across the city to also wear Black Lives Matter shirts. The resolution reads:

Whereas the SEA promotes equity and supports anti-racist work in our schools; and,

Whereas we want to act in solidarity with our members and the community at John Muir who received threats based on their decision to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts as part of an event with “Black Men United to Change the Narrative”; and,

Whereas the SEA and SPS promote Race and Equity teams to address institutionalized racism in our schools and offer a space for dialogue among school staff; 

Therefore be it resolved that the SEA Representative Assembly endorse and participate in an action wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 with the intent of showing solidarity, promoting anti-racist practices in our schools, and creating dialogue in our schools and communities.

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Editor’s note:

We welcome comments but will not approve posts we deem racist and hateful. If you want to share your ignorance and vitriol, go to the other Seattle blog. They will gladly accept your comments there.

 

Video: Seattle teachers talk about the Seattle Education Association strike at the NWTSJ conference

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For the first time in 30 years, Seattle educators went on strike for the schools Seattle students deserve and for the working conditions and compensation the teachers deserve. After five days on the picket lines, supported by close to 100 percent of SEA members, parents, families and community, including Seattle City Council, King County Labor Council and the NAACP, the tentative agreement was reached.

This panel of education activists discusses the organizing strategy, the groundswell of support, the gains and compromises made and next steps for educational justice at the Northwest Teachers for Social Justice conference in October, 2015.

I personally know most of the teachers on this panel and have found them to be dedicated, talented and always going the extra mile for their students.

Panelists:

Doug Edelstein teaches history at Nathan Hale High in Seattle. He is a member of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) Board of Directors, an active member of Social Equality Educators (SEE), and served as picket captain for his zone during the SEA strike this fall.

Kayla Barr Graham teaches ELL at Hamilton Middle School in Seattle. She is a SEA representative and was picket captain for her school during the strike. Eliza Rankin is a parent of a 1st grader in the Seattle Public Schools. She is a co-founder and active member of Soup for Teachers, a grass roots movement that supported educators during the SEA strike and will continue their mission by advocating for positive change across the Seattle school district.

Andy Russell is a 4th-grade teacher at Dearborn Park Elementary in Seattle. He served as a member of the SEA bargaining team, is a member of the SEA Board of Directors, and an active member of SEE.

Marian Wagner is a 4th-grade teacher at Salmon Bay K-8 in Seattle and an elementary district lead science teacher. She also served on the SEA bargaining team, is SEA director of Prof. Growth & Evaluation joint committee with SPS, and is a SEE supporter.

Roberta Lindeman – Moderator – Veteran teacher 30 years

Testing, Charters and Strikes, oh my! Video of panel with Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au and Dora Taylor

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On October 17 of this year, Jesse, Wayne and I spoke on a panel at the annual Northwest Teaching for Social Justice Conference sponsored by Rethinking Schools about the testing opt out movement, the recent Seattle teachers’ strike and the Washington State Supreme Court decision on charter schools.

Hope you enjoy it.

Dora

Seattle Education Association members ratified the new contract

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What we know so far is that at the General Membership Meeting this evening, members of the Seattle Education Association voted to ratify the new agreement with Seattle Public Schools.

Per the Seattle Education Association’s website, the highlights of the contract include:

  • Recess: Guaranteed 30 minutes of recess for all elementary students.
  • Reasonable testing: New policies to reduce the over-testing of our students.
  • Professional pay: Base salary increases of 3 percent, 2 percent and 4.5 percent, plus the state COLA of 4.8 percent
  • Fair teacher and staff evaluations: Test scores will no longer be tied to teacher evaluations, plus there is new contract language that supports teachers’ professional growth.
  • Educator workload relief: Additional staff to reduce workloads and provide student services.
  • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap: Creating race and equity teams at 30 of the district’s schools.
  • The administration’s proposal to lengthen the school day: Teachers will be compensated for additional work.

It was a great time in Seattle during the strike with parents, students, the Seattle City Council, legislative districts, community organizations, other workers’ unions and citizens showing their support for our teachers.

Now it’s time to settle back into the new school year but something has changed and I believe we are all better for it.

We met, made new connections, showed pride in our teachers and our school communities, shared laughter and concerns, shared our food, our homes, our time and energy with our teachers and now they return to the classrooms knowing we appreciate them and are here for them.

We have their backs.

Dora Taylor

Was the Seattle Times trying to control the narrative or are they that bad at reporting?

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At 7:45 AM this morning, the Seattle Times reported the following:

Teachers still reported to picketing locations Tuesday morning, while about 500 union members, parents and students marched from Pioneer Square to district headquarters to show their support for teachers and celebrate the agreement.

At 7:45 this morning there was no agreement and the march planned, as I reported yesterday, was a time for parents and students to show support for their teachers. When the march was called, there was no word of either side coming close to an agreement. This was to be a show of solidarity with the teachers and their union with a march ending at the Stanford Center where students planned to present letters to the Superintendent and School Board members.

This is what the organizers stated per my post:

We are wearing red to support our teachers. Bring signs with your school’s name and colors to show the district how many families and teachers are affected by their inaction.

In this video, people in the march were shouting  “Fair contract now!”, not like they have a fair contract now but demanding that the district agree to the requests made by the SEA bargaining team.

Whether the Times, which has been bought by big money, was trying to control the narrative or they are really that bad at reporting, neither is good. So, when the Times calls about you renewing your subscription, remember how one-sided and/or inept their reporting was of an event that happened in the same city they are headquartered.

To follow are photos of the event which do not show a celebration of an agreement but a demand that the district treat their teachers fairly.

Please note in the link to the photo’s uploaded to flicker that it appeared to be at least 1,000 marchers not 500 as the Seattle Times wanted to portray. Two people who were there it was more like a thousand people marching.

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The march began in Pioneer Square and made its way to the Seattle Public School district offices at the Stanford Center.

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At one point when people tried to enter the Stanford Center, the doors were locked.
At one point when people tried to enter the Stanford Center so that students could deliver letters to Superintendent Nyland and School Board members, the doors were locked. It too 20-30 minutes for the district to allow some of the students in.
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Written on the wall at the Stanford Center.

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By the way, if you look at the photo’s at this flicker site, it looks like there were far more than 500 people in the march. Two people who were there estimated 1.000. Either way it was a historic show of support for the teachers and their union.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Post Script:

This evening the SEA negotiating team did come to an agreement but we will not know the terms of the agreement until it is shared with all union members for their approval so stay tuned.

March to Support Seattle Teachers this Tuesday, September 15th

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Join parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens to march in support of Seattle teachers.

Everyone will gather in Pioneer Square, at the corner of Yesler Street and 1st Avenue, at 10am. The march will go down 1st Avenue to Lander Street (about 1.7 miles) to end at the John Stanford Center (2445 3rd Ave S) as a demonstration of support for our teachers who are asking for changes that are fair and reasonable, as well as in the best interest of our children. Families are encouraged to stay for a “play-in” on the district lawn until noon. Please bring toys/musical instruments/chalk/etc.

We are wearing red to support our teachers. Bring signs with your school’s name and colors to show the district how many families and teachers are affected by their inaction.

Here is the link to the Metro trip planner for bus schedules:
http://metro.kingcounty.gov/trip-plan…
And for parking:
http://www.pioneersquare.org/discover…

A letter in support of Seattle Public School teachers by Parents Across America, Puget Sound

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A letter  in support of Seattle Public School teachers

To the teachers and staff who work tirelessly everyday in our schools, teaching our children, the next generation of citizens in our country, many times in physical  conditions that are not optimum for teachers or students, whose classes are many times beyond what a teacher can manage by themselves, with little to no money for adequate materials, who sometimes, because of a lack of classroom space, must take their lessons with them on a cart from room to room, who sometimes must take on the role of counselor or nurse because there is no money for trained staff and yet are evaluated by student’s standardized test scores which have little or no relationship to curriculum students are taught, we stand with you.

You have gone six years without a cost of living increase and no increase in educator health care as healthcare costs continue to rise.

You’ve been assaulted by high stakes standardized testing, which narrows and dumbs-down the curriculum and robs students of essential instructional time.

You have been asked to work additional hours without pay by the district.

You have bargained in good faith and now are striking for your members, for your students and the broader community.

Your requests are reasonable:

  • A pay raise after six years with no cost of living increase.
  • Guaranteed student recess for all students: Recess time varies wildly across the district, and we believe all students benefit from a guaranteed amount of time for play and exercise.
  • Fair teacher and staff evaluations: Educators should be evaluated fairly and consistently, and the focus should be on providing the support all educators need to be successful.
  • Reasonable testing: Too much standardized testing is stealing time away from classroom learning.
  • Office professional workload relief: Office professionals do crucial work and play many roles – and they should be compensated for the extra work they do.
  • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap.

If millions of dollars can be spent on buying yearly contracts for a battery of useless standardized tests along with the costs of buying computers and paying IT staff to install costly systems and hiring data experts for each school, the Seattle School District can find the financial resources to support all of the educators’ proposals;

Parents Across America  Puget Sound stands in support of the teachers and the Seattle Education Association contract proposals and also acknowledges appreciation of both School Board Director Sue Peters’ opposition and the opposition of City Councilmembers Licata, Okamoto and Sawant  to Superintendent Nyland’s legal threat against Seattle educators;

Parents Across America Puget Sound appreciates your vision and your sacrifice.

Issused by Parents Across America Puget Sound Steering Committee

A great video: The Community Forum at City Hall for Seattle Educators

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A highly recommended watch.

Teachers, parents and students speak to the issue of the strike and why they support it at a meeting at City Hall on Thursday, September 10, 2015.

Go to the Seattle Channel.

Dora Taylor

The 34th District Democrats pass a resolution in support of the Seattle teachers’ strike

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So far the 32nd District Democrats, the 34th District Democrats and the Metropolitan Democratic Club have issued a Resolution in support of the Seattle Education Association.

To follow is the Resolution that was passed by the 4th District Democrats.:

Resolution In Support of the Seattle Education Association Contract Proposal to the Seattle School District

WHEREAS the Seattle educators are making perfectly reasonable demands:

  • Professional pay: We need to attract and keep caring, qualified educators in Seattle, which is one of the most expensive cities in the United States. We’ve gone six years with no state COLA and five years with no state increase in funding for educator health care.
  • Guaranteed student recess: Recess time varies wildly across the district, and we believe all students benefit from a guaranteed amount of time for play and exercise.
  • Fair teacher and staff evaluations: Educators should be evaluated fairly and consistently, and the focus should be on providing the support all educators need to be successful.
  • Reasonable testing: Too much standardized testing is stealing time away from classroom learning.
  • ESA workload relief: Educational staff associates provide students with crucial services and support, but their current workloads mean many students aren’t getting the help they need.
  • Office professional workload relief: Office professionals do crucial work and play many roles – and they should be compensated for the extra work they do.
  • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap: We need to focus on equity issues across Seattle, not just in six schools.
  • The administration’s proposal to make teachers work more for free: It is unrealistic to expect teachers to work more hours without additional pay, and the district administration has been unable to explain how their proposal would help students; and

Whereas, Seattle educators have sacrificed for 6 years with no pay raises from Olympia, have overcrowded classrooms, too many standardized tests, and inadequate resources, and

Whereas, the Seattle School District has the financial resources to support all of the educators’ proposals;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 34th Legislative District Democratic Organization  (LDDO) stands in support of SEA contract proposals and also acknowledges appreciation of School Board Director Sue Peters’ opposition to Superintendent Nyland’s legal threat against Seattle educators; and

THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the 34th LDDO urges the Seattle School Board to agree to the SEA contract proposals.

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Submitted to the 34th Legislative District Democratic Organization for consideration at its                September 9, 2015                   meeting in Shoreline, Washington.

Adopted __________________________________

Signed by Chair of the 34th LDDO, Marcee Stone-Vekich____________________________________

A busy second day of the Seattle teachers’ strike

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Teachers, parents and students were out on the picket line on day 2 of the Seattle Teachers Association (SEA) teachers’ strike

One parent told me that yesterday morning when she was with the teachers at her daughter’s elementary school, three parents came by in the course of three hours to make sure the teachers had enough water and food.

Because images can say more than any words I can write, to follow are photo’s sent to Seattle Education yesterday and this morning of Day 2 of the Seattle teachers’ strike.

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Roosevelt High School students made 200+ brown bag sandwiches for their picketing educators. With food to spare, they ended up visiting 10 schools.
Coe Elementary
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Franklin High School
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Students with their teachers at Sanislo Elementary School.

Yesterday evening was a rally in support of the teachers in the City Council Chambers at Seattle City Hall. The room was overflowing.

Teachers, parents and students spoke. Teachers talked about why they were on strike and parents and students spoke in support of the teachers.

Also yesterday, Wayne Au, PhD, one of the Plaintiff’s in the Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of charter schools in Washington State, had an article published in the Washington post titled A Perfect Storm in Washington State.

It was a busy day in the world of education.