Seattle teachers will vote tonight on whether to accept a proposed contract for the next two years, an agreement that appears to reach some middle ground on pay raises, would increase the length of elementary teachers’ workday, and would keep test scores a part of how teachers’ job performance is evaluated.
The agreement was reached very early Sunday by negotiators for Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers’ union. Both groups are recommending that teachers approve the contract, although a vote Monday in the union’s representative assembly was very close — 48 for ratification of the proposal, and 47 against. According to some teachers who were there, Union President Jonathan Knapp cast the 48th vote in favor.
The district and the union aren’t publicly talking about the proposal until after tonight’s vote, but some of the details are leaking out, given that the union has provided copies to its 5,000 members, of which roughly 3,000 are teachers. (Someone also provided links on the union’s Facebook page, see links here and here.)
Under the proposal, teachers would get a 2 percent raise for the 2013-14 school year, and then 2.5 percent for 2014-15. The district had earlier proposed 2 percent for both years; the union reportedly wanted 2.5 percent. Teachers also would get an additional 1.3 percent raise because earlier this year, state legislators ended furlough days for state employees.
The proposed agreement also calls for the required workday for elementary school teachers to increase by 30 minutes, but starting in fall 2014, not this school year. The additional time would be used for planning and collaboration, as the district wanted. The union had proposed increasing students’ school day by 30 minutes as well, restoring a half hour of art, music and P.E. classes that were discontinued years ago.
The district also would continue to use state test scores in evaluating teachers, not as part of a teacher’s formal job performance review, but as an indicator of whether a teacher’s performance needs a closer look. The union had wanted to suspend the use of test scores in teacher evaluation for two years as the district and the union jointly worked on a new teacher evaluation system, required under a new state law. Under the proposed agreement, the district would continue to use its old system and develop the new one.
The agreement also includes a new system for special education in Seattle, which both sides hope will bring improvement to services that have drawn considerable criticism from parents and the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. That is one of the big changes in the proposal that hasn’t received much attention, because both sides agreed on it early in the negotiations.
Given the split vote Monday in the union’s representative assembly, some teachers say tonight’s vote may be close as well, and likely will lead to some tough discussions.
“It’s good for our solidarity to be united and we’re not united,” said Noam Gundle, a science teacher at Ballard High.