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Sacramento Teachers Stage One-Day Strike, Accuse District of Backtracking on Contract

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Educators and supporters rally outside the Sacramento City Unified School District's Serna Center during a one-day teachers strikes on April 11, 2019. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

This post will be updated.

Thousands of Sacramento public school teachers are participating in a one-day strike Thursday, demanding lower class sizes and other school improvements they say the district promised but never delivered.

Educators and their supporters, including students, picketed outside C.K. McClatchy High School and held signs that read "Honor our Contract," "Keep Your Promises to Our Kids" and "Unfair Labor Practices Strike."

California Teachers Association President Eric Heins led teachers in chanting "enough is enough."

"Starting in West Virginia to Oklahoma to Arizona, all across the country teachers have been saying 'enough is enough,' " Heins said. "In L.A. they were saying 'enough is enough.' In Oakland they were saying 'enough is enough.' And now here in Sacramento they're standing up and they are saying ‘enough is enough.’ "

The Sacramento City Teachers Association, the union representing some 2,800 teachers, nurses and resource specialists, accuses the school district of backtracking on the terms of its 2017 agreement and engaging in unlawful labor practices. As part of that deal, the union claims the district committed to reducing class sizes and hiring more nurses and counselors with funds it saved from switching to a cheaper health plan, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“We don’t want to go on a strike, but that is our lawful way of getting the district to live up to its commitments,” SCTA President David Fisher wrote to the district last month.

But officials with the Sacramento City Unified School District, which is grappling with a $35 million deficit and faces the threat of a state takeover, argues that the union is misinterpreting the agreement, and that any savings must first be used to address the urgent budget crisis. The district has until the end of June to balance its budget, and is considering employee layoffs and program cuts.

Spanish teacher Erik Saucedo and art teacher Jesse Carew, both from Hiram W. Johnson High School, both stressed the importance of electives and offering their students new opportunities to grow during a one-day teachers strike in Sacramento on April 11, 2019.
Spanish teacher Erik Saucedo (left) and art teacher Jesse Carew, both from Hiram W. Johnson High School, both stressed the importance of electives and offering their students new opportunities to grow during a one-day teachers strike in Sacramento on April 11, 2019. (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

“We have been seeking to work with you to honor the agreement as we understand it,” Superintendent Jorge Aguilar wrote to the teachers union earlier this month.

As roughly 42,000 students and their families braced for the walkout, district spokesman Alex Barrios on Wednesday said that schools would remain open, with classes staffed by substitutes, school meals served and regular bus routes in place.

Last month, teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing the strike, and the union recently confirmed the walkout following several failed mediation attempts with the district. Teachers plan to rally at noon outside the district's headquarters.

It marks the latest in a string of high-profile teacher strikes around the country over the last year, including recent walkouts in Oakland in February and Los Angeles in January.

Sacramento teachers last went on strike 30 years ago.

Annie Caditz, a French teacher at Hiram W. Johnson High School, partakes in a one-day strike in Sacramento on April 11, 2019 (Sruti Mamidanna/KQED)

KQED's Lily Jamali contributed to this post.

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