As parents of children in Seattle Public Schools, we're not excited about the idea of a strike that would delay the start of the school year. But if a strike does happen, we will stand firmly with the teachers who are fighting to provide a high quality education for all our kids.
The Seattle Education Association has made reasonable proposals in their contract negotiations that would dramatically improve the quality of education our children receive. The district has largely rebuffed these proposals from the teachers’ union, just as they have resisted efforts by parents to address these issues as well. The latest news that the district might seek legal action to block a strike is a troubling example of this obstruction. The contract negotiation represents an important opportunity to finally address longstanding problems.
We’ve already won a major victory thanks to SEA’s bargaining position, as the district agreed over the weekend to SEA’s proposal to guarantee at least 30 minutes of recess at every school. Last fall parents began organizing to get the district to expand recess as well as lunch times, which have shrunk to the point where many kids don't have enough time to eat. Administrators and board members have dragged their feet in addressing lunch and recess times, even though studies show that kids learn better when they have enough time to eat and play. We’re very happy that SEA stood with us on this issue, though there is more work to be done to ensure that the district follows through and provides kids with the lunch and recess time they need in order to learn.
That victory gives us hope that a strong stand by SEA will bring other important improvements to the education our children receive. Teachers also share our concern that excessive standardized testing is taking away from student learning. We have watched with dismay as the classroom curriculum is narrowed and instructional time increasingly devoted to test preparation, rather than to a holistic education. SEA has proposed to eliminate unfair and unreliable methods of evaluating teachers based on test scores, as well have teachers work with the district to decide if any more standardized tests are to be given besides those mandated by the state and federal government. This is an important step that would emphasize optimal learning in the classroom.
Parents have long raised concerns regarding access to special education, and the district faces a federal investigation on this issue. SEA proposes to have a hard limit on therapist caseloads, which is an important way of making sure that kids in special education get the attention they need.
SEA has proposed to ensure more than just six schools have equity teams to address persistent inequalities in our communities and our schools. They’re also seeking more office staff to manage overcrowded schools. These too are reasonable proposals that we are stunned the district has refused to accept.
As Seattle residents, we also know that this city is becoming a more expensive place to live and raise a family. That's why we believe teachers are right to ask for a long overdue raise. Teaching is one of the most important careers in our community. Those who teach our children deserve to make a wage that allows them to live in Seattle and support their household.
We are grateful to SEA members for standing with parents to address these concerns as we work together to provide every child in our city with a great education. The district should be working closely with SEA to accept their proposals, reach an agreement on a contract, and avoid a strike. Instead, they continue to resist these sensible proposals, just as they have resisted parent efforts to address these same problems.
We understand the hardship a potential strike will bring to many families, and sincerely hope that school starts on Wednesday as planned. But if the district forces teachers to strike, we will stand in support of the teachers and members of SEA as they fight for a better education for our children.
Sarah Lang is a photographer with two children in Seattle Public Schools, a 9-year-old at Whittier Elementary, and a 12-year-old at Hamilton International Middle School. Jana Robbins is a preschool teacher at King Street Cooperative Preschool in the Central District with a second grader at Leschi Elementary and an incoming fourth grader at TOPS K-8. Naomi Wilson is a research specialist with the University of Washington College of Education. She has a first grader and fourth grader at Sacajawea Elementary School.