Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Rise Up, Babies, RISE UP"

The Seattle teachers strike has been suspended and is likely over, pending a ratification of the tentative agreement by the full membership. School will begin on Thursday, a week and a day later than originally scheduled.

It's been a remarkable week in many ways, most impressive being the widespread, vocal support of the strike by the community at large and especially among parents. This isn't to say it hasn't been an emotional roller coaster for the teachers and that there haven't been heated exchanges around dinner tables and in the comment sections of news articles, but for the most part the people of Seattle stood in solidarity with our teachers.

According to the Seattle Education Association's Facebook page, it appears that most of the union's "priority issues" were addressed:

  • Recess: Guaranteed 30 minutes of recess for all elementary students
  • Reasonable testing: New policies to reduce the over-testing of our students
  • Professional pay: Base salary increases of 3 percent, 2 percent and 4.5 percent, plus the state COLA (cost of living adjustment) of 4.8 percent
  • Fair teacher and staff evaluations: Test scores will no longer be tied to teacher evaluations, plus there is new contract language that supports teachers' professional growth
  • Educator workload relief: Additional staff to reduce workloads and provide student services
  • Student equity around discipline and the opportunity gap: Creating race and equity teams at 30 of the district's schools
  • The administration's proposal to lengthen the school day: Teachers will be compensated for additional work.

I've not seen the details, but there certainly are lot of things to be happy about. This is a strong statement in favor of children and education in our city and against corporate-style education reform. It's not everything they wanted, but compromise is always the end-result of negotiation.

Over this past week and a day, we've hosted a number of older siblings at the preschool and kindergarten. Every one of them could explain what was happening. They understood the strike and while they might not have had a firm grasp of the details, they did understand that the teachers were standing up not only for themselves, but their students as well. They also understood that their parents supported their teachers. What a powerful way to start a new school year.

What better lessons can the children learn? We will fight for you. We will rise up against oppression. We will rise up against inequality. We will rise up against your cool beautiful spirits being squashed so they can turn you into another passive cog in their corrupt corporate machine that tuns a blind eye as kids are piped from schools into prisons. You are important. We love you for you. We don't have to take it.

Thank you Seattle teachers. You've inspired me and you've taught your students one of the most important lessons of their young lives. This is not the end, but the beginning. Now that we've seen the power of students, parents, and teachers sticking together in solidarity, we know that there is nothing we can't do.

Rise up, babies, RISE UP. Together we can change the world.

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1 comment:

Rachel said...

As a Seattle teacher, I was inspired to overhear parents talking to their kids in public about the strike.

"Mama, why are the teachers on strike?"

"They're trying to make it right."

Yes, we are. And we're not finished.