Yuba City teachers say they’re prepared to continue strike

As teachers in Yuba Clty Unified School District concluded other second day on strike, district and teachers union officials said they were ready to talk, but each was waiting for the other to take the initiative.

District Superintendent Nancy Aaberg issued a news release saying that all schools remained open and 85 union members reported for work Friday, an increase of 12 percent from Thursday. Student attendance, however, fell below Thursday’s level, to 42 percent, and elementary schools continued to see higher attendance than high schools.

Dina Luetgens president of the Yuba City Teachers Teachers Association, disputed the number of teachers crossing the picket lines, saying only 40 union members reported for work Friday, about the same number as Thursday.

“The kids (at River Valley High School) are playing Roseville in football here in Yuba City without their regular coaches,” Luetgens said Friday evening, adding that teachers were conducting an informational campaign during the game.

Aaberg said that a number of media outlets had reported that the teachers association leadership is interested in renewed negotiations with the district.

“Although we have not been contacted by union leaders, we hope these reports are accurate and that union negotiators have prepared a proposal or counter-proposal for discussion,” Aaberg said in the news release. If so, she said, it would be the first proposal or counter-proposal offered by the union since January.

Luetgens said the teachers have made it clear that they are ready to discuss the impasse, saying they are prepared to resume negotiations this weekend. The union made the last overture, she said, and the ball is now in the district’s court.

Unless union leaders hear from the district this weekend, teachers plan to be on the picket lines again Monday, Luetgens said.

Whatever the union’s decision, Aaberg said, district schools will remain open Monday and she encouraged parents to send their children to school.

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

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

Aaberg has said that 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 says 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.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy