SEATTLE – Seattle teachers striking over wages planned to put down their picket signs Friday and instead work on community service projects like food drives in commemoration of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The sides failed to reach a contract agreement Tuesday, delaying the start of school for some 53,000 students.
Seattle Public Schools spokesman Stacy Howard said Thursday afternoon that both sides are continuing to meet with mediators, but negotiations have not resumed. Teachers from the district's 97 schools planned things like park cleanups or food drives on Friday, the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"We will not be picketing in front of the schools," said Seattle Education Association spokesman Jonathan Knapp.
Washington state's largest school district and the teachers union remain at an impasse over pay raises, teacher evaluations and other issues.
The educators, who have not received a cost-of-living pay raise in six years, have joined other workers pushing for higher wages that compete with the city's growing, highly paid tech workers.
Olga Addae, a science teacher at Franklin High School, walked the picket line Thursday with other union members who said they will stay out of the classroom until the district offers a fair compensation package and agrees to stop cutting student services.
"We're doing this for the students and for a better school system," said Addae, a teacher of 21 years.
Teachers want to live close to their schools and be a part of those communities, but rents continue to rise while educators' salaries have stagnated, Addae said.
Seattle Public Schools offered a pay increase of nearly 9 percent over three years. The teachers union countered with a 10.5 percent increase over two years.
Teacher salaries range from about $44,000 to more than $86,000 for more experienced educators with advanced degrees, according to the district. In comparison, tech workers can easily draw six figures.
Rents have ballooned by more than 37 percent since mid-2010, according to Apartment Insights Washington. The median rental price for homes in Seattle in July was $2,354 a month, Zillow reports, compared with a national average of $1,376.
The city is having a housing crisis because more than 40 percent of the new jobs in the region are with Amazon or Boeing, and their starting salaries are twice as much as an experienced teacher, Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata said.
"That means the people who are educating our children are finding it difficult to live in the city where the children they teach live," he said.
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