Two sides resume talks in Seattle teachers' strike

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 12, 2015 10:09 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - The Seattle public school district and a teachers' union resumed talks on Saturday, three days after instructors went on strike and delayed the start of fall classes for 53,000 students, officials said.

The strike has left some parents scrambling to find placements for children.

Representatives for the Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools met separately with state mediators on Thursday and Friday.

The two sides resumed talks on Saturday, said district spokeswoman Stacy Howard and union representative Rich Wood, adding that negotiations had now ended for the day.

Both sides said negotiations were scheduled to resume on Sunday.

Some 5,000 instructors and support staff walked off the job and onto picket lines on Wednesday, which was supposed to have been the first day of classes. Extended talks had collapsed the night before in disagreement over wages, hours and performance evaluations.

The strike, which has forced the shutdown of all of Seattle's nearly 100 public schools, marked the first contract-related disruption of classes in three decades for the largest public education system in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the teachers' chief grievances is they have received no cost-of-living raise in six years despite surging living expenses, particularly for housing, that in turn have been fueled largely by growth in the city's technology industry.

The walkout comes at a time of increased scrutiny of education spending in the state. The Washington state Supreme Court last month fined the state $100,000 for every day it failed to present a court-ordered plan for fully funding public schools..

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The district before Saturday had offered the union $62 million in pay raises, staff increases for special education and 20 minutes of added instructional time after two years, Howard said. She said the union was demanding $172 million in increased wages and benefits.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool and Kim Coghill)