Striking teachers say pay gap makes Seattle tough to afford

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Warren, AP Image 1 of / 14 Caption
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gallery_thumbnails_show|article-gallery-6495103|article-gallery-6495103|0 gallery_overlay_open|article-gallery-6495103|article-gallery-6495103|0 gallery_overlay_open_thumbs|article-gallery-6495103|article-gallery-6495103|0 Image 1 of 14 Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators wave to motorists as they walk a picket line, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in front of Franklin High School in Seattle. The strike was called when Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union failed to reach an agreement on their contract Tuesday night, and is Seattle's first educator strike in 30 years.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators wave... Image 2 of 14 Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk a picket line on a pedestrian overpass, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in front of Franklin High School in Seattle. The strike comes as teachers in Seattle have gone six years without a cost-of-living pay increase.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk... Image 3 of 14 Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk a picket line, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in front of Franklin High School in Seattle. The strike was called when Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union failed to reach an agreement on their contract Tuesday night, and is Seattle's first educator strike in 30 years.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk... Image 4 of 14 Ever Eugenir, right, an instructional assistant who works with students learning to speak English at Franklin High School, stands with other striking Seattle School District teachers on a picket line in front of the school, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in front of Franklin High School in Seattle. Eugenir made his own sign with the word "strike" shown in Spanish and Tagalog, two of the languages spoken by students he teachers.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Ever Eugenir, right, an instructional assistant who works with... Image 5 of 14 Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk a picket line past an empty athletic field, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, at Franklin High School in Seattle. The strike was called when Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union failed to reach an agreement on their contract Tuesday night, and is Seattle's first educator strike in 30 years.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk... Image 6 of 14 Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk a picket line on a pedestrian overpass, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in front of Franklin High School in Seattle. The strike comes as teachers in Seattle have gone six years without a cost-of-living pay increase.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk... Image 7 of 14 Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk a picket line past an image of Martin Luther King Jr., Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in front of Franklin High School in Seattle. The strike comes as teachers in Seattle have gone six years without a cost-of-living pay increase.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP Striking Seattle School District teachers and other educators walk... Image 8 of 14
Teachers and staff picket Olympic Hills Elementary, temporarily housed in the Cedar Park building, in northeast Seattle. The school would have been celebrating a grand opening.
Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO, SEATTLEPI.COM Teachers and staff picket Olympic Hills Elementary, temporarily...
Image 9 of 14
Marletta Iwasyk, a 47-year veteran teacher, comforts Esme Oehl, 6, who was upset that day one of first grade did not happen. Iwasyk, who participated in Seattle Public Schools last strike 30 years ago, was walking the picket line at Orca K-8 in south Seattle.
Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO, SEATTLEPI.COM Marletta Iwasyk, a 47-year veteran teacher, comforts Esme Oehl, 6,...
Image 10 of 14
Teachers march at Ingraham High School in North Seattle on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Teachers walked off their job on the first day of school in the Seattle district.
Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO, SEATTLEPI.COM Teachers march at Ingraham High School in North Seattle on...
Image 11 of 14
Teachers march at Ingraham High School in North Seattle on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Teachers walked off their job on the first day of school in the Seattle district.
Photo: JOSHUA TRUJILLO, SEATTLEPI.COM Teachers march at Ingraham High School in North Seattle on...
Image 12 of 14
Teachers march around Ingraham High School in North Seattle on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Teachers walked off their job on the first day of school in the Seattle district.
Photo: Joshua Trujillo/seattlepi.com Teachers march around Ingraham High School in North Seattle on...
Image 13 of 14
John Donaghy, left, executive director of the Seattle Education Association, walks the picket line outside of Ingraham High School in Seattle as teachers kick off a strike on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015.
John Donaghy, left, executive director of the Seattle Education...
Image 14 of 14 Striking teachers say pay gap makes Seattle tough to afford 1 / 14 Back to Gallery gallery_thumbs_close|article-gallery-6495103|article-gallery-6495103|0 gallery_overlay_close|article-gallery-6495103|article-gallery-6495103|0 SEATTLE (AP) — Teachers in Seattle say they have walked off the job largely because they can't afford to live in the same city as the children they teach.
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 Washington state's largest school 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.
Teacher Janine Magidman has lived and worked in Seattle for years, but worries her newer colleagues will be priced out.
"The cost of living is just ridiculous," said Madigman, who teaches at Roosevelt High School .
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.
"There's a giant tech surge here in Seattle, with Google and Twitter opening offices," said Tom Leung , co-founder and CEO of Seattle-based Anthology , which connects professionals with employers. "Apple. Cisco. Ebay . It's a who's who of tech."
The companies have run out of workers and space in the San Francisco Bay Area, so they're looking to the Northwest as a key region to add staff, he said.
"It has created an intense amount of competition for highly skilled tech workers," Leung said. "A typical tech engineer can make $150,000 without trying very hard. That does create an impact on the rest of the city."
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 a teacher who has been on the job for years, Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata said.
"They're bringing in tons of people, but affordable housing is disappearing," he 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."
Wages and affordability have dominated the political landscape in Seattle recently. After a strong push from labor activists, the city last year adopted a phased-in $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia , president of the National Education Association , said that besides stalled cost-of-living increases, teachers have gone five years without a boost in funding for health care costs.
"Seattle needs to attract and keep caring, qualified educators in one of the most expensive cities in the United States," she said.
With the strike entering its third day Friday, the district and union remained stuck on pay raises, teacher evaluations and other issues.
The sides failed to reach an agreement on a contract 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.
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Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle .