SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The below article follows updates from March 22. For the most recent March 23 updates, click HERE.
9:00 p.m. update:
The Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) said they'll be going on strike Wednesday after negotiations with the school district failed.
"We were supposed to meet with them beginning at 2:30 p.m. They refused to meet with us; they never did come into our virtual room. We waited for hours," said David Fisher, president of the SCTA.
"Unless they (Sacramento City Unified School District) have a change of heart between now and when schools start tomorrow, we will be on strike," he added.
The SCTA and SEIU Local 1021 will take to the picket lines around 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Serna Center. The unions represent more than 2,800 Sacramento educators and 1,800 staff like bus drivers and custodians.
The district and unions have been at odds over issues surrounding staffing, better pay, training and health benefits.
The teachers and classified workers unions say the district is in crisis and short 250 teachers, 100 substitutes and 400 staff. They accuse the district of misplaced priorities, pointing to $123 million in reserves and $320 million in COVID-19 relief dollars.
In a Sacramento Bee Op-ED, Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said those one-time COVID-19 funds are to retain-long term counselors, social workers, and nurses. That is in addition to stipends and bonuses for existing staff.
District officials countered with what they say is the highest compensation package in the region, 2% raises, signing bonuses, 100% paid healthcare. The offer was rejected by the union, which prefers recommendations from a third party mediator that the district requested.
"All they need to do is accept the compromise solution, and we can move on," Fisher said.
ABC10 reached out to the Sacramento City Unified School District for comment. A district spokesperson said comment was expected before 11 p.m., but nothing was received by that time.
The district previously said that their schools would be closed if a strike happened Wednesday. However, SCUSD said students will still be able to access school meals. The district said pre-bagged meals will be available at each school site as well as mobile distribution locations.
It’s unclear how long the strike would last, but the union has also planned a strike in front of the Sacramento County Education Office on Thursday and outside of City Hall and Cesar Chavez Plaza on Friday.
Update: 6:40 p.m.
Sacramento City Teacher's Association President David Fisher said negotiations appear to have failed Tuesday after the Sacramento City Unified School District didn't show.
Fisher said the union was told by a mediator that the district refused to meet with them.
However, District spokesperson Alex Goldberg said the district is being represented at the bargaining table by professional negotiators and that negotiations are ongoing. However, he wasn't sure if there was a break at this hour and wasn't able to speak to the current moment.
District officials and the unions said they have to reach an agreement by Wednesday to avoid a strike.
As a potential strike nears, Fisher said it could still be averted if the district accepts the neutral mediator's compromise.
Unless an agreement is reached, SCUSD schools will be closed tomorrow. In an earlier update that said the district was working with labor partners to avoid the strike, school officials said "Please plan to keep your student at home unless we (SCUSD) communicate otherwise."
Sacramento educators said students and parents should prepare for a strike Wednesday.
After returning to the bargaining table on Monday, a deal has not yet been reached between the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) and SEIU Local 1021.
The unions represent more than 2,800 Sacramento educators and 1,800 staff like bus drivers and custodians.
The union is at odds with SCUSD administrators over issues surrounding staffing, better pay, training and health benefits.
“There’s been horrible disruptions to students' education,” said Nikki Milevsky, school psychologist and vice president of the SCTA.
Union officials say the district is short 250 teachers. They say certificated staff won’t be eligible for any increase in pay for five years and would take an average $10,000 dollar cut in take-home pay due to increased health insurance costs demanded by the district.
They were urging leaders to come to the table. In an update, the district said they are continuing to work with labor partners to avoid a strike.
“There’s definitely a possibility that this could be averted. It’s just up to the district to work with us and frankly they just did not,” Milevsky said.
If no deal is reached by Wednesday, educators plan to walk out and meet outside the Serna Center at 11:30 a.m. Sacramento City Unified schools will close on Wednesday should that happen, according to district officials. This would impact athletic practices, competitions and extracurricular activities as well.
District officials declined ABC10's interview request and referred to their offer of 2% raises, signing bonuses, and 100% paid health care. It's an offer already rejected by the SCTA.
If campuses close Wednesday, SCUSD said students will still be able to access school meals. The district said pre-bagged meals will be available at each school site as well as mobile distribution locations.
It’s unclear how long the strike would last, but the union has planned a strike in front of the Sacramento County Education office on Thursday and outside of City Hall and Cesar Chavez Plaza on Friday.
“It is truly heartbreaking for the students and the teachers,” said Katrina Trute, a SCUSD parent.
Trute has 3rd and 10th graders who struggled during the pandemic. The potential strike comes as they were just getting back on track, and she is worried it could derail their progress.
“The teacher’s union, I feel, is using the teachers as pawns, and I feel the district are using the kids as pawns. The teachers are there to do a job. They can’t do their job. The kids are there to learn, and the kids can’t learn," Trute said.
Trute said the issues between both sides have led to a fractured relationship with families that damages trust.
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