Equitable raises for classified and certificated staff.
Our bargaining team members, both certificated and classified, have repeatedly reminded the District that as expensive as Seattle is for certificated staff, it is even more expensive for classified staff. Members around the District have indicated they support higher raises for classified than certificated.
That's actually what we did in our last contract. Due to state law, certificated raises have always been calculated as a percentage of your base. But base has shrunk to only 60% of a cert's salary, so a 4.5% raise on your base is about 3% of your total salary. Raises for classified, on the other hand, have always been on your whole salary.
Things are changing now because of new state rules. Future raises for certificated staff will be applied to what is likely to be a larger base, closer to 80-90% of total salary. A percentage raise that is equal will still favor classified staff, but by a lesser amount.
Our schools work best when we have a full team of quality educators. None of us can be there for our students if we don't have a living wage that allows us to care for our families.
The levy lid is going down. What does that mean for Seattle?
We had one of the highest levy amounts in the state: SPS could raise 37% of its budget from local voters, while most other Districts were limited to 28%. But starting in January, we can only raise 24% of our budget from local voters, the same as every other District. That drops levy funding from $4000 per student to $2500.
We have a school levy to pass in February. We will need to help make sure that passes with high voter support to send a message to legislators that voters want to put more money into our schools. The legislative session will be short, so once that levy passes, we need to pressure Olympia in a huge way to lift the 24% levy lid.
What about all the new state funding for salaries?
The state increased the amount of money it is sending to Districts for salaries - nearly 40%. That's what the McCleary decision required.
But our salaries don't only come from state dollars, and the part that isn't coming from state dollars is dropping (the levy). Previously the state has only been paying about 60% of certificated salaries and about 50% of classified salaries. The rest is from levy. Some Districts around the state had only been using state money to pay staff - and staff in many of those District are getting some big raises. But they are still paid less than we are because our salaries - cert and classified - are higher than what is funded by the state.
So, state money is up, but levy money is down...where do we end up?
Well, fortunately, we are up, but less than other Districts in King and Snohomish Counties. As we have reported here in the Unity several times, District revenues are up about 15% this year, and then go down 3.7% next year. Additionally, the District's ending fund balance (money unspent at end of year) looks like it will pass 12% this year, far more than it needs to hold in reserve.
Safer, more effective Special Education.
There is considerable support from both teams for increased parapro training, more compensation for writing IEPs, better pay for ASL interpreters, less pulling away of special ed IAs to supervise general ed, and more professional development in general. Although the District believes our ratios are much better (i.e. expensive) than other Districts, it has not proposed changing our ratios. On the other hand, they are also reluctant to improve them. We believe that the continuum resource room is a place where additional IA investment would be paid back through reducing more restrictive placements.
Supporting substitutes and addressing the shortage.
Again, lots of common ground on improving training, especially for parapro subs who often come in with little experience. Both teams also see the value in letting hiring teams bring forward successful substitutes to apply for jobs. While the District has indicated openness to getting subs into long term benefitted positions more readily, we are concerned that many subs will still not be able to access District healthcare. Likewise, the new sick leave law has led to improvements for our substitutes, but they still accumulate sick leave more slowly than regular staff.
Paraprofessional and Office Professional (SAEOP) training and mentoring.
There is strong support from both teams for investing in onboarding and mentoring. We are also working on ways to boost incentives to pursue professional development, such as through the SAEOP Professional Standards Program. While the intention of the Parapro PD credit program was to provide a similar incentive, it is simply too much work (64 credits every year) for too little money ($3 per day). Only 100 Parapros - less than 10% of paras overall - qualify each year for the credit.
Support the whole child and engaging families.
We've had a lot of discussion about the need for more counseling, nursing, family engagement, ESA services, and library access for students. We expect and are seeing some progress in this area. Getting full time positions into all elementary schools is beyond the scope of the funding available if we are prioritizing competitive, living wages, but progress can be made.
Professional Growth and Accountability.
In 2015 we proposed an Evaluation Review Committee to be made up of principals and teachers, and agreed to work on that after our last contract settled. That effort is now bearing fruit. We piloted what we now call the Peer Assistance and Review Committee this spring. The Committee will eventually consist of 8 teachers and 8 principals who will review teacher evaluations where principals raise performance concerns. The PAR committee will then review the principal's and consulting teacher's recommendations on next steps for that teacher and then make the appropriate recommendation to the superintendent.
Other issues? Yes!
Racial equity (see previous Unity articles for more on our bargaining discussions), dual language school workloads, early release schedules and expectations, and more are still in discussion.
Announcement: Nominations open 8/27 for
Director of the SEA Center for Race and Equity
In June the SEA Representative Assembly voted to create a
new elected officer position: the
Director of the SEA Center for Race and Equity. Nominations will open for that position on Monday, August 27th. Your Association Representatives will elect the new officer at the Representative Assembly on September 18th. Future elections will then be held together with elections for all SEA officers.
The SEA Center for Race and Equity was founded in 2016. Marquita Prinzing was appointed as the Director at its founding. You can review the bylaw change here and learn
about the Center for Race and Equity here.
Make sure to like and follow the
pages. We will be sharing bargaining team testimonials and additional updates there. In addition to 35+ members of our bargaining team, we have another 25 Zone Captains (by high school feeder pattern) who are connecting with building reps on a regular basis so that we remain well organized!