Thousands of Yuba City students miss school on first day of teachers’ strike

Thousands of Yuba City students stayed away from classes Thursday during the first day of a teachers’ strike in the Yuba City Unified School District.

Representatives of the 700-member Yuba City Teachers Association said the group plans to enter its second day of the walkout Friday, arguing that the district pays uncompetitive salaries.

Superintendent Nancy Aaberg said Thursday that most of the absences occurred at the district’s two comprehensive high schools, Yuba City and River Valley, where enrollment is normally about 1,750 each. Attendance at those campuses reached about 30 percent.

Elementary campuses had 50 to 80 percent of normal attendance, she said. Overall, she said, 56 percent of the district’s 12,600 students in kindergarten through 12th grade attended school Thursday.

Aaberg said about 80 members of the association crossed picket lines to work Thursday. Counting those labor members and the district’s substitute hires, classes were adequately staffed, she said. The district was offering $330 per day to substitutes, far higher than the normal $125 daily rate.

Teachers Association President Dina Luetgens disagreed with Aaberg’s count of members who crossed picket lines, saying only 39 members broke ranks.

Besides teachers, the association represents speech and language pathologists, nurses, counselors and school psychologists.

The Yuba City Unified School District, about 45 miles north of Sacramento, has 13,300 students in 18 schools, including preschool classes.

The strike revolves around the labor group’s contention that they are underpaid compared to other California teachers and that the disparity is driving teachers elsewhere.

Aaberg said union leaders are ignoring an offer on the table that would bring the top teacher salary in the district to $95,000.

The labor group has said that Yuba City teachers make 13 percent less than the state average. School officials say that a 13 percent raise would have dire financial consequences for the district.

Aaberg said late Thursday that both sides were trying to determine when they could meet, “which we hope would be very, very soon.”

Association members disagreed. “They have not called us,” said Leutgens. “We’re prepared to sit down and talk to the district anytime they are willing to start talking.”

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews