SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) were closed Thursday for day two of the teacher strike, according to district officials. Officials said that parents should anticipate the closures extending into Friday.
While both the unions and SCUSD continue to be at odds over issues surrounding staffing, better pay, training and health benefits, they both agreed on one thing Thursday: neither side met with the other to pick up negotiations on Thursday.
The Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) told ABC10 that a mediator would call the parties back if there was any movement on the subject and that the district should accept the fact finder compromise solution.
In response to an inquiry from ABC10, a school district spokesperson said their same offer to negotiate stood Thursday and that their negotiations team is ready to pick up talks with SCTA.
The strike in Sacramento became the second big U.S. school district this month to see a work stoppage over pay and staffing shortages as a teachers strike in Minneapolis entered its third week.
"As of Friday, that is still to be determined, but we will do everything we can to communicate as early as possible tomorrow (Thursday)," Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said in regards to when classes will resume.
SCUSD is expecting more information regarding negotiations to be released tonight.
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The disputes in Sacramento and Minneapolis, where teachers walked out March 8, come as school districts across the country deal with fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and limited resources.
Across the country, union workers are seizing the opportunity posed by tight labor markets to recover some of the power they feel they lost in recent decades as unions shrank in size and influence. And experts expect to see more labor strife as the country emerges from the pandemic.
SCUSD canceled classes Wednesday and Thursday at its 76 schools, affecting 43,000 students, after negotiations failed with the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021. The unions — representing 2,800 teachers and 1,800 school employees — voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to strike. Teachers say Sacramento has serious staffing shortages despite federal funding and a district budget surplus that it could tap.
“The district has misplaced priorities and no sense of urgency,” said teacher union president David Fisher.
The teacher shortage is an issue Pedro Noguera has studied extensively. He is the Dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He is a senior scholar associated with the Learning Policy Institute, which conducts research to influence and guide the development of American education policy.
The teacher shortage was present before and only exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which left many teachers feeling stressed, overworked, underpaid and burnt out, Noguera said.
“There’s a lot of people out there who have credentials who could teach,” Noguera said. “What’s happening is many people who could teach are refusing to teach because the job itself has become unattractive and unbearable.”
The growing issue is leaving policy makers and administrators across the nation looking into ways to both attract and retain talented educators. Noguera says better pay and benefits will certainly help at attracting people, but says the problem goes beyond that.
His latest concern is that we are likely to see more teacher strikes happening in communities across California as the issue reaches a boiling point.
“Teachers are… underpaid in too many cases, overworked, and they’re fed up. So, it’s labor actions, it’s losing good people. We can’t allow that to happen,” Noguera said.
These labor actions are part of a trend across the country that started with the pandemic, said Steve Smith, spokesman for the California Labor Federation, which includes SEIU Local 1021.
“Workers are really fed up with poor treatment, generally few safety protections, low pay. Many of these are essential workers who really stepped up to keep our economy going in the roughest of possible times,” Smith said.
Bradley Marianno, a professor of education policy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who studies teacher unions and collective bargaining, said teacher strikes were on the rise before the pandemic, and he expects to see educators making more noise again after two stressful years.
“Tight labor markets create bargaining power," Mariano said, adding: “School districts are saying this: ‘It is difficult to staff classrooms right now.’ And real or not that perception creates bargaining power for teachers unions to negotiate higher teacher pay.”
Elsewhere in Northern California, teachers in the Mount Diablo district in the San Francisco Bay Area reached a tentative agreement on Saturday. In Sonoma County's Cotati-Rohnert Park district, teachers returned to work last Thursday after a six-day strike. Spokespeople for the two largest national educators' unions said they knew of no other teacher strikes on the horizon.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who helped break a stalemate between teachers and the district in 2017, urged both sides there to do everything possible to end the strike immediately.
“Kids have missed enough school. Their education and mental health are at stake. They will continue to suffer if the adults continue to fight among themselves,” Steinberg said in a statement Wednesday.
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