City Council Backs Seattle Strike

City Council Backs Seattle Strike

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Seattle City Council has thrown its support behind striking teachers, passing a resolution recognizing the union as the walkout in Washington's largest school district was set to enter its fifth day Tuesday.

The council voted unanimously Monday to designate this week "Seattle Educators Week" and to ask the district to continue negotiating in good faith with the union to bring the strike to an end.

The strike, over issues that include pay raises and the length of the school day, has delayed the start of the public school year for about 53,000 students.

City-run community centers that opened its doors to more students this week quickly filled up as parents juggled day care for their children.

The city's 21 community centers were taking care of about 2,000 children in kindergarten through sixth grade at no cost. The effort is costing the city about $21,000 a day, said David Takami, a Seattle Parks and Recreation spokesman.

District bargainers were reviewing the latest proposal presented by the Seattle Education Association, Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Stacy Howard told reporters Monday afternoon.

Councilwoman Kshama Sawant said Monday that if the union wins it will be a huge step forward for students and educators, but it would also resonate outside of Seattle.

"A victory for the union is also a victory for education across the country. It shows that if we organize and remain united, we can resist attacks on public education," she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray said Monday evening that he met separately with district superintendent Larry Nyland and union president Jonathan Knapp to offer his help and urge them to reach a fair agreement that would allow the school year to begin as soon as possible.

Many teachers say they have gone six years without a cost-of-living raise, making it difficult to live in Seattle, where expenses have been rising in part from the influx of highly paid tech workers.

The district provided raises totaling 8 percent out of local levy money in that time.

Parents were staying flexible while they wait for a deal. Kim Flanery-Rye had to bring her 7-year-old son to work one day and had his uncle watch him another. Her husband worked from home the third.

"This is really a great way to make sure our children are taken care of," said Kim Flanery-Rye, who is relying on care at Miller Community Center this week.

As tough as the strike has been on parents who were counting on having their kids in school, many still support the teachers.

"It's inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as not getting a raise," Mark Oberlander said Monday as he dropped off his son, a first-grader, at a Boys & Girls Club. "It's very expensive to live in Seattle. I don't want all the teachers commuting 45 minutes in."

Teacher salaries in Seattle range from about $44,000 to more than $86,000, depending on experience and education.

Over the weekend, the union made a counterproposal that called for raises totaling 9.75 percent over two years — far less than the 21 percent over three years initially sought.

"We want to get kids back in school, and we want to show good faith," Seattle Education Association Vice President Phyllis Campano said Sunday evening.

This year, lawmakers — facing a court order to increase spending on education — came up with money for new teachers and supplies. Some $37 million of that money is going to Seattle. The district says it has offered raises totaling 14 percent over three years — including cost of living adjustments from the state — but it also wants to extend the school day by 20 minutes, arguing that Seattle has one of the shortest instructional days in the state, at 6 hours and 10 minutes.

The union said the proposal would have forced teachers to work that extra time for free. Over the weekend, the district offered to pay teachers for the added instructional minutes, Howard said. The union proposed studying the pros and cons of an extended school day.

(KA)