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Originally published Monday, August 26, 2013 at 10:03 PM

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Seattle teachers reject schools’ contract proposal

As the start of school approaches in Seattle, teachers rejected the school district’s latest proposal for a new teacher contract.

Seattle Times education reporter

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Seattle teachers voted Monday against accepting a contract proposal that their leaders had encouraged them to reject.

According to the school district, the negotiating teams from both sides are scheduled to meet again Tuesday to try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement before school starts a week from Wednesday.

Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp said the vote was nearly unanimous among the 1,810 union members at a general membership meeting. They included teachers and other school employees.

In all, the union has about 5,000 members.

A few weeks ago, a district proposal to increase class size in grades four through 12 was the biggest sticking point in the negotiations, but the district has since withdrawn it.

Now the disagreements involve the use of test scores in evaluating teachers, whether to add 30 minutes to the workday of elementary-school teachers, and whether to change the size of case-­ loads of school employees such as therapists, psychologists and nurses.

Superintendent José Banda said Monday that he was disappointed about what union negotiators did after the district withdrew the class-size proposal.

“I really thought we were close to an agreement, but then all of a sudden ... there was a determination that our offer was no longer considered something that they would be willing to move forward,” he said.

Knapp said the district’s plan to add 30 minutes to the workday of elementary teachers would result in a 2.6 percent pay cut for those teachers. The union doesn’t object to a longer day, but it wants the extra time to be class time. The district wants teachers to use the additional minutes to analyze data on student performance and collaborate on lesson plans.

Knapp also said the union wants a two-year moratorium on using student test scores in teacher evaluations.

In the last teacher contract, the union and the district agreed that student test scores could be a part of judging teacher performance, and the district already has started to do so.

The union now wants to suspend that practice for two years, citing the fact that Washington students soon will be taking a new set of exams tied to new learning standards known as the Common Core. There are also questions about how best to use student performance to evaluate teachers who don’t teach subjects covered by state tests.

“This is a perfect window of opportunity for us to work on those issues together with the district,” Knapp said.

Both sides already have agreed not to continue to measure student growth using exams known as the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) — tests that hundreds of Seattle teachers boycotted earlier this year, saying they provide little value to teachers or students.

Banda said looking at student test scores is crucial in identifying teachers who need additional support.

Seattle teachers could agree to work even after their contract expires Aug. 31. They also could decide to strike, although no strike vote has been scheduled.

Banda said Monday he remains confident the two sides can reach an agreement before Sept. 4.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @LShawST

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