11 Reasons why the Seattle Teachers Strike was important in the struggle for quality public education.
Seattle teachers received never before seen levels of parent support during the strike. One group of parents organized as ‘Soup for teachers’, by the end of strike this group had over 2800 members. They brought soup and other food items for hungry striking teachers at picket lines. They also set up an interactive map for sites in lower income areas of town that weren’t receiving enough support.
The Seattle Education Association bargaining team consisted of 40 members reflecting the diversity of educators represented by the Seattle NEA affiliate. This is unprecedented as most local bargaining teams consist of a small team of educators and state affiliated NEA reps. This resulted in more contact and input from more rank and file Seattle teachers.
The Seattle teachers strike eliminated standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations. In other areas of the country standardized test scores account for up to 50% of teachers evaluations.
Over 95% of Seattle teachers participated in daily picket lines after unanimously voting to go out on strike. This level of participation bodes well for future organizing in the fight for quality public schools and as a counter to the increasing attempts at privatization.
The fighting spirit didn’t end when Seattle teachers ratified the new contract. A one-day public sector union strike is already in the works for workers across Washington state including a call to converge at the state capitol in Olympia.
The Coalition for Schools Seattle Students Deserve formed to support the teachers and held a benefit concert that 700 people attended raising over $8000 for the SEA hardship fund.
Seattle Teachers won the right to build 30 site-based equity teams to address class and racial disparages for which Seattle Public Schools are notorious; and the raises won are guaranteed to the entire bargaining unit. (previously some members of the bargaining unit were left out of raise negotiations)
Seattle wasn’t the only community where teachers withheld their labor. Pasco teachers in Southeast Washington ignored a court order to return to the classroom and continued their strike beyond the Seattle strike, teachers in South Whidbey and Kelso also started the year on strike with Spokane teachers narrowly averting a strike the night before school began.
Social Equity Educators (SEE) played a large role in the leadup to and during the strike, this caucus has members on the union’s executive board and have been instrumental in pushing Seattle teachers to take on more radical positions in the fight for schools Seattle students deserve.
The momentum in the fight for quality public education shifted just before the SEA strike when the Washington State Supreme Court ruled charter schools unconstitutional — overturning the law that allows schools to be publicly funded but privately operated; they also state held the state legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund public education.
Seattle teachers won 30 minutes of guaranteed recess time for elementary school students.