Communication Sent to SCUSD Staff About SCTA Efforts to Vote for a Strike
Dear SCUSD families,
Please see this letter which was sent to all SCUSD staff this evening in response to questions and concerns about a possible strike in our district.
I have heard questions and concerns from many of our school sites about Sacramento City Teachers Association’s (SCTA) current efforts to vote for a strike. I know that hearing about a potential strike and potential disruption to student learning can be extremely unsettling. In response I am sharing the following information.
In recognition that teaching and learning during a pandemic has presented extra challenges, Sac City Unified has tried since last July to problem solve and reach an agreement with SCTA to address COVID-related challenges for the 2021-22 school year. Our goal was to ensure that schools could reopen safely and the district could provide the best education possible under the constraints of the pandemic.
The problem-solving proposals that we presented as early as August 2021 included:
- Providing extra pay to teachers who volunteered to take on additional students in independent study;
- Providing extra pay for substitute teachers and our existing secondary teachers who substituted during their prep period;
- Providing extra pay to our nurses who took on COVID-related duties after regular work hours;
- Supporting students who were required to quarantine by providing simultaneous in-person and remote instruction for students in short-term independent study, with extra pay for teachers who take on this extra work;
- Complying with the COVID-19 public health guidance and recommendations for schools, detailed in the district’s Return to Health plan; and
- Addressing staffing shortages by temporarily utilizing 28 District Training Specialists to fill in for high need vacant positions.
After working for months trying to reach agreement with SCTA on these matters, the district sought a declaration of impasse in December 2021 from the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). Neutral mediators were called in to facilitate talks, but after several sessions the mediators recommended that both parties participate in a Fact Finding process with the goal of resolving outstanding issues so an agreement on the COVID-related issues for this school year could be reached.
In our impasse filing to PERB, we narrowly defined our disagreements as stemming from COVID and our efforts to reopen our schools and protect continuity of learning. Since we are now nearly at the last quarter of our school year, we are still eager to resolve these outstanding issues in a way that best serves all students.
We are on two separate negotiations tracks. The first is over our school reopening plans related to COVID-19. The second is over the full successor contract to our current agreement that lapsed in July 2019. The district and SCTA have both acknowledged that we are not at impasse over successor contract negotiations. The fact finding process we are in has nothing to do with inaccurate claims about “health benefit takeaways” or “salary freezes” that SCTA union leadership has used to urge SCTA members to strike.
To be clear, the district did not file for impasse due to negotiations about a successor contract. As such, the district cannot impose changes to health benefits and other matters as a result of the current Fact Finding process because we are not at impasse over those matters. If SCTA union leadership leverages the Fact Finding process to include successor contract issues into the hearing, it will enable SCTA to bypass further legitimate talks on our broader successor agreement and disregard the purpose of the impasse process.
A strike will cause chaos for students and families.
After nearly three school years of interrupted learning due to COVID-related school closures, illness, and quarantines, it is unconscionable that SCTA is threatening a strike to shut down our schools. This is offensive to all of our families that have been waiting for their children’s school experience to get back to normal. Taking away students’ access to learning time and the support services that our schools provide is inappropriate. This is especially hurtful and harmful to our most vulnerable students who count on our schools as safe havens, and families who do not have the luxury of keeping their children unsupervised at home.
Striking employees stand to lose income.
A strike will also hurt our employees because they will lose wages for every day off the job, thus hurting students, families, and employees.
A path forward.
While our district works to avoid an unnecessary and detrimental strike, please be aware that a lot of misleading and false information is being circulated. Please refer to SCUSD’s Negotiations Updates web page for accurate information, including proposals and counterproposals related to COVID-19 and updates about negotiations. I encourage you to demand and review credible sourced information.
The district remains committed to working through the current impasse process to reach agreement on COVID-related issues for the 2021-22 school year. We are also committed to continuing successor contract negotiations with SCTA and hope to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of our students, staff, and community.
Superintendent Jorge Aguilar