Seattle teachers strike: What’s a fair contract?
Last week, as Seattle parents prepared for the fall-out of a threatened teachers strike, Rich Wood spokesman for the state teacher union, told West Seattle Herald reporter Patrick Robinson,
“The Seattle School Board needs to make teachers and other school employees a fair contract offer...”
As a policy analyst, this got me thinking. What is a fair contract? Do Seattle teachers have a fair contract today? What are its key terms? I read the current contract and here is a summary. The full contract is here.
- Average total pay is $69,590 a year (many teachers make more, up to $85,000).
- Salary and benefits are for a ten-month work year.
- Salary and benefits are for a 7-hour work day for elementary teachers, and 7.5-hour work day for high school teachers.
- The Seattle District pays the third-highest teacher salaries in the state, as this chart shows.
- The District pays for dental, vision, medical and life/long term disability insurance, liability insurance, and state pension benefits.
- The District provides six planning days, when no students are allowed to come to school.
- The District provides five short school days, when students are sent home early.
- The District provides teachers 10 paid sick days, and two days of paid personal leave.
- The District pays teachers cash for unused leave days.
- The District provides seven holidays, a two-week winter break and a one-week spring break.
- District and union rules provide teachers long-term job security. Firing a Seattle school teacher is very difficult, even in cases where they assault students.
District officials announced they had reached a tentative agreement with union executives in secret talks over the weekend. Details are unavailable. The District will likely agree to a 5.3% pay raise over two years. Other pay and benefits will likely remain unchanged. The Seattle School District currently spends about $13,000 per child per year, about twice the cost of private school tuition.
Over Labor Day weekend Seattle parents scrambled to make alternative child care arrangements in case union executives closed their local school.
As good public policy, Washington Policy Center recommends the new contract include an effective No-Strike Clause, so Seattle’s 50,000 children won’t again face the prospect of union action closing their school.
The current contract certainly seems fair, even generous, compared to what most working taxpayers receive. The union will decide September 3rd whether to accept the pay increase and other benefits. In the meantime, it’s reasonable to ask whether the union is being fair to parents.