Sacramento’s second teachers’ strike in four years began Wednesday with hundreds of educators picketing and urging the Sacramento City Unified School District to accept their union’s proposals for better pay and work.
About 1,000 teachers and school staff – many dressed in red shirts – gathered outside district headquarters for their main rally, where some of them sharply criticized Superintendent Jorge Aguilar’s handling of the lengthy negotiations of work.
SEIU Local 1021, which represents classified employees, has called a solidarity strike with teachers over health and safety protocols and staffing shortages that have left hundreds of students without a full-time teacher.
“Ironically, we go out to make sure every student has a teacher in the classroom,” City of Sacramento Teachers Association President David Fisher said at an early morning high school event. McClatchy.
Schools closed across the city as the district was unable to staff its campuses. This kept over 40,000 students home for the day.
The strike is expected to continue Thursday, with unions and the district remaining unable to reach an agreement on staffing and COVID-19-related expenses. The teachers’ union is also negotiating with the district on a comprehensive contract; its members work under a collective agreement that expired on July 1, 2019.
The district this week released some details of its latest offer to the union, which included a 2% wage increase and a number of one-time staff bonuses. Superintendent Aguilar and school board administrators have been reluctant to offer more due to the district’s longstanding financial problems. The neighborhood was in danger of being taken over by the state in 2019 because it was planned to go into the red.
“The District remains ready and willing to resume negotiations and the District Bargaining Team is ready. The district’s offer to increase compensation for SCTA-represented employees … remains on the table,” the district said in a press release.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who helped break a standoff between teachers and the district in 2017, urged both sides to “do everything possible to end this strike immediately,” saying students have missed enough school and that their education and mental health are at stake.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Steinberg said the parties must “commit to some form of collaboration” to prevent the strike from affecting the students.
Parents sympathetic to the strike
Many Sacramento parents say they are sympathetic to the teachers, who have worked under difficult conditions throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Rhythmic drumbeats played loudly during the rally outside the Serna Center. Sixth grader Marco Perez and his friends practiced on Home Depot buckets with a talented drummer that parents and teachers at Alice Birney Public Waldorf K-8 School raised money to hire. That’s because there are very few district-funded activities at the Sacramento City Unified Schools, said his mother, Marie Perez.
“I have no reason to continue in Sacramento City except that I love my child’s teachers,” she said. “It’s the only thing that keeps my son enrolled. The community is amazing.
Teresa Kayatta, a Sacramento attorney, brought her two young children to the Serna Center to participate in the one-day strike. Kayatta knows it could be days before her children return to their classrooms.
She said she was lucky to work from home. Like many other students across the country, her first-grader son has spent much of the past school year learning remotely.
Her son attends speech therapy sessions three times a week. Her husband, Taylor Kayatta, said the district’s requests for additional resources sometimes get them nowhere. His frustration led him to announce a race for the school board.
Teresa Kayatta said if the parties fail to reach a resolution on the negotiations and schools remain closed, it will hurt her son’s progress in the classroom, where he communicates daily with his peers and teachers.
But even with these concerns, she supports the strike.
“That could mean several days away from the classroom,” she said. “But teachers deserve better treatment.”
What Sacramento Teachers Are Saying
Teachers on the picket lines said they had been overworked.
Ingrid Hutchins, who teaches in the district’s independent study program, said the program has 571 students on its waitlist ‘who haven’t studied this year’ due to severe staff shortages. .
Due to staff shortages throughout the district, several classes are being sent to cafeterias and gymnasiums to be supervised by one or two teachers or substitutes.
“So when we say students are back in school (from the pandemic) there are students back in school – but there are a lot of students who aren’t back in school. ‘school.”
On Wednesday morning, kindergarten teacher Karina Ayala, 31, stood outside Father Keith B. Kenny Elementary School in Oak Park, holding a sign that read, “Education is a right. Better schools are worth the fight.
His main concern is the staff. The school hasn’t had a physical education teacher all year, she said, and substitute teachers rarely pick up the phone when called to come to school. Teachers should teach physical education during their preparation time.
“We don’t have the certification to teach physical education and we’re wasting our preparation time,” Ayala said.
Ayala, who has been teaching at the school for five years, earns $59,571 in 2020. That salary isn’t enough to afford to buy a house on her own in Sacramento in the competitive market, she said, so she lives with her. Parents.
What people have to say about the strike
Several organizations and unions took to the stage to support the strike.
Four teachers from Rohnert Park traveled to Sacramento to join the rally, nearly two weeks after their six-day strike over wages ended.
“You’re on the right side of this fight,” said high school teacher Lisa Bauman. who helped negotiate with his district on behalf of the Association of Educators of Rohnert Park Cotati. “You are fighting for your students and your community, and they are here for the long haul with you. It’s the only way things will change. »
But not all parents supported the strike.
Caroline Nasella said it was unclear to her what the Sacramento City Teachers Association wanted. Nasella spoke to The Bee from home and was not at the rally.
“It’s also overwhelming as a parent because there seems to be so much vitriol between the union and the district that ‘good faith’ negotiations seem impossible,” Nasella said.
On Wednesday, her daughter was at home watching television instead of in class at Phoebe Hearst Elementary.
“We’re lucky that we can work from home, but it’s still disruptive and I sympathize with parents who have to work outside the home.”
David O’Toole, a parent of four in the district, said he didn’t think his family was represented in “this ugly and pointless battle”. He said the district and the union share responsibility for the collapse of negotiations.
He was troubled by a letter written by leaders of a union representing principals and other administrators that criticized Aguilar and the school board. The letter said many school administrators had “lost confidence” in the district’s leadership.
“The strike and the recent release of confidential documents by SCTA and the District clearly demonstrate the eradication of trust and the need for leadership change and third party direction if the District is to once again become governable and financially viable” , did he declare.
Theresa Clift and Michael McGough of The Bee contributed to this report.