Students in Seattle will miss their fourth consecutive school day Monday thanks to teachers continuing to strike for pay raises and other benefits.
Members of the city's teachers' union, the Seattle Education Association, voted 95% in favor of opening the strike on Wednesday, which was scheduled to be the first day of school. Roughly 50,000 students will miss their fourth day of classes Monday due to the strike.
City officials initially offered a 1.1% increase over the state-mandated 5.5% cost of living raise, but the SEA rejected the offer. Union leaders also say they want the city to hire more teachers to increase diversity.
"The staff should be a representation of the students in the school. That is the biggest thing," Special Education Teacher Ibi Idowu told King 5.
"Kids need to see teachers that look like them. They need to have books that represent who they are. When we talk about being culturally responsive, that's what it means. It's not just saying that it's demonstrating what that looks like," Idowu added.
Seattle Public Schools says it remains "confident" a deal can be reached soon, despite the most recent talks falling through on Friday.
The SEA is one of many teachers' unions across the country that fought against the return of in-person schooling. Union leaders called it dangerous for students to return to classrooms for the 2021-22 school year.
Teachers' unions that pushed back on school reopenings have faced heavy criticism in recent weeks due to the harm online learning caused for students. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, one of the most prominent advocates of keeping schools closed, lashed out at critics last week.
The Wall St. Journal editorial board published an op-ed declaring that Weingarten had "flunked" the pandemic, to which she responded that the board should "listen to the teachers who gave their all to help students and families weather a global pandemic that killed a million Americans and orphaned 200,000 kids."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.