SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle public teachers’ union has filed unfair labor practice complaints against the city school district over actions it took to try to return some students to classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seattle Public Schools is the state’s largest district and its approximately 47,000 students haven’t had access to in-person learning in almost a year.
The Seattle Times reports that on Sunday the Seattle Education Association filed three complaints with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission alleging the district interfered with the rights of employees to collectively bargain working conditions, violating two state statutes.
After getting authorization from the Seattle School Board last week, the district designated some 700 educators as “essential” to speed up the process of in-person instruction for special education students.
The move last week uses a clause in the contract that gives the superintendent the right to determine essential staff who need to be on-site in buildings.
The union argued the action forces educators back into the classroom before the two parties were able to agree on coronavirus safety protocols.
Last month Gov. Jay Inslee urged more schools to open up to in-person instruction, saying the online classroom experience wasn’t adequate for many.
The Democratic governor said moving toward more in-person instruction is in line with the scientific consensus and the latest guidance from federal officials.
Inslee said only about 20% of the state’s more than one million public school students were receiving some form of in-person instruction.
In a statement Monday Inslee's office said the Democrat has had ongoing conversation with teachers, administartors and districts.
“Gov. Inslee not only believes it can be done safely, but that it essential for kids’ learning, as well as social and emotional development,” the statement said.