Dear SEA Educators,
We understand that there are a number of questions and concerns regarding the SPS announced March 1 re-open date for Pre-k through 1st grade and special education, and what our bargaining rights and process will be with respect to any re-open plan this school year.
Yesterday SEA leadership met with District leadership for a preliminary conversation to outline the bargaining process and schedule. Formal negotiations have not yet begun. Here are some answers to FAQs:
What happens if we do not reach agreement with the District by March 1?
If we cannot reach agreement by March 1, we will remain in the remote model under the current MOU while we continue to bargain with the District.
Our current MOU states (emphasis added):
"The parties agree that the provisions of this agreement shall remain in effect until August 31, 2021, until a replacement agreement is bargained. The parties understand that during the 2020-2021 school year the public health situation may change allowing for hybrid or full in-person learning. All stages of remote to in-person learning will prioritize the health and safety of students, staff, and the greater community, while continuing to support students furthest from educational justice. The parties will meet to bargain modifications to this agreement prior to implementing changes in the working conditions and expectations of SEA represented employees."
What is the SEA approval process for any tentative agreement reached with the District?
If the bargaining team reaches a tentative agreement with the District, the TA will be reviewed by the Board of Directors for their recommendation and then will be presented to the Representative Assembly for its ratification. We intend to provide the TA to members and Representatives well in advance of the RA meeting, recognizing the challenges of last August when there was limited time to review the TA.
What happens if the Representative Assembly does not ratify a tentative agreement?
If the Representative Assembly does not ratify a TA, then SEA would return to the bargaining table with the District. In the meantime, we would continue in the remote model under the provisions of the current MOU.
What is SEA's responsibility with respect to bargaining?
SEA has a duty to bargain in good faith with the District and will do that through our bargaining team. We are working on a communication structure to allow for members to receive both regular updates as well as to provide feedback on any questions, concerns, or priorities with respect to bargaining. We will also send out a member survey in the near future to hear about members' questions, concerns and priorities.
What is the estimated timeline for vaccines?
Shouldn't we wait to return until after educators can get vaccinated?
This one is tricky. Anecdotally, we are hearing from many members that we should not return until educators can get vaccinated. Other members, however, are ready to return to in-person as soon as possible, even without a vaccine. We will send out a survey in the near future to better understand what our members are thinking about this issue.
What about health and safety issues other than the vaccine?
There are numerous health and safety issues and protocols that we will need to bargain with the District. We will provide more information as soon as we can.
I want to return to in-person now. Why is SEA being a barrier?
SEA leadership does their best to represent the membership. We are a member-driven union, representing over 6,000 educators with a range of opinions about whether and when we should return to in-person. We also can only do our part, and we depend upon the District and School Board to do theirs, while we must also take into consideration the needs and desires of our students, families, and community. And, of course, we are also dependent upon our elected leaders and health officials to get the pandemic under control and we continue to learn new information every day about how the virus spreads, including most recently news of the more contagious variant.
As stated above, we have a duty to bargain in good faith and we will do so.
What about workload and equity issues?
There are numerous workload and equity issues that need to be understood and addressed. For example, the District's proposal would re-assign many, if not most, elementary educators which would be difficult and disruptive for students, families and educators. At the same time, we understand that there are also many workload and equity concerns with the remote model for our Pre-K through 1st grade students, families, and educators. These are all difficult issues that the bargaining team will need to address as we bargain the District's re-opening plan.
Jennifer Matter, President