Sacramento teachers march over contract dispute
The Sacramento City Unified School District is inching closer to a teachers strike.
A large majority of teachers in the district serving 47,000 students say they are willing to strike if their union and the school district can’t agree on a contract soon, the teachers union said Thursday.
In response, the school board called an emergency meeting for Thursday night to vote on authorizing Superintendent Jorge Aguilar to hire temporary teachers and any additional personnel required to keep classrooms open, according to district spokesman Alex Barrios.
Sacramento City Unified teachers are working under a contract that expired in December. The Sacramento City Teachers Association and the district have been in negotiations for about a year and still disagree over compensation, both sides say.
Eighty percent of the district’s 2,200 teachers and 600 substitutes voted on whether they were willing to strike between Sept. 20 and Oct. 11, said John Borsos, SCTA executive director. Of those, 97 percent approved the strike, according to a press release from the union.
Besides its existing 600 substitute teachers, the district would need another 100 to 200 more if a strike is approved, Barrios said. Administrators with credentials are also prepared to take over classrooms.
Borsos said, however, that the substitute teachers are members of the union and that he expects them to strike alongside other teachers.
Representatives from both sides met with a negotiator from the state Public Employment Relations Board earlier this month to come up with a recommended contract agreement. The report is expected by Nov. 3.
“We are in a fact-finding process right now and we have both committed, at least verbally, that we will stick to the fact-finding process, let it play out and get an independent report,” Barrios said. “It is mind-boggling that the union will ask its members to think about going on strike without an independent review of the facts.”
A decision about whether to strike won’t be made until at least Nov. 3, union officials say.
“The Sac City Board of Education shouldn’t need a fact-finding panel to explain that if you want to be the destination district for California, an increased number of high-paid administrators and a soaring reserve fund are not the investments today’s students and educators need and deserve,” said David Fisher, president of SCTA, in a statement. “The District is more focused on hiring administrators and building up an enormous reserve, rather than making sure our students can thrive.”
Barrios said the district has agreed to raise teacher pay by 6 percent, including 2.5 percent retroactively for the previous school year.
Fisher said the increase would still leave district teachers at the bottom of pay rates at 23 similar school districts in the state.
The Bee last year found that Sacramento City Unified’s average teacher salary of $67,009 in 2014-15 ranked fourth from the bottom out of 14 comparable districts in the region. It also fell below the statewide average of $73,687. However, teachers in Sacramento City Unified also have some of the region’s best health benefits.