Sacramento Teachers Threaten Strike

Teachers want more pay, smaller class sizes, and lots of specials.

Does Sacramento, California have a lot of extra money sitting around? (Spoiler alert: it doesn't.) The city's teachers seem to think so, and they're planning to go on strike Wednesday if they don't get a piece of it, leaving 47,000 kids at 81 schools without their teachers and their parents in a bind.

The last contract between the the Sacramento City Teachers Association and the city expired in December, so teachers have been working under an expired contract since that time. In October,  80 percent of the district's 2,200 teachers and 600 substitutes voted on a strike and, of those, 97 approved. 

The teachers want more pay, smaller class sizes (which would require hiring 273 new teachers), an increase in the number of school nurses and psychologists, an expansion of music, arts, and physical education, and, The Sacramento Bee reports, "better working conditions."

Where do they expect this money to come from in a district with huge debt? The school system simply doesn't have the money the teachers want as they continue to fall behind on repaying a debt of $621 million in lifetime health benefits for teachers after retirement dating back to 1974. The Sacramento Bee reports that the average salary for a teacher in California is $73,687, and the average salary for teachers in Sacramento City Unified District is $67,009, but they have "some of the region's best health benefits."

The city and the teachers union met over the weekend and were unable to come to an agreement. "We need an independent mediator because our contract offer is at $25 million, and their contract offer is at $86 million. There is a huge gap between what we are putting on the table and what they are putting on the table," SCUSD spokesperson Alex Barrios said. "The independent neutral fact-finder will find what the facts are -- what the district can afford to pay, and what's fair to the teachers."

On Sunday, the Sacramento school district asked the state to block the strike before Wednesday's deadline approaches. Some parents won't "cross the picket line" and allow their kids to go to school to be taught by substitute teachers if the teachers strike. With stay-at-home parents figuring out how to help working parents with childcare so kids don't have to go to school. Is nobody putting the kids first?