Student attendance was off at least 10% Tuesday, as 527 of the school district's 750 teachers staged a one-day strike.
District officials said there were more than enough substitute teachers to keep classes open, however. No serious problems or incidents occurred, Supt. A. Stanley Corey said.
The striking teachers picketed their schools early Tuesday, and at 10 a.m., about 300 teachers gathered in front of the Irvine Unified School District administration building, on Barranca Parkway, carrying colorful signs and helium-filled balloons.
Steve Valderrama, 37, of El Toro, a fourth-grade teacher at Westwood Basics School, carried a sign that read: "This Is Not the Magic Kingdom. 3% Is Mickey Mouse."
The district's last offer was a 3% pay raise; the teachers are demanding 4%.
Peggy Kelleher, a first-grade teacher at El Toro Marine School, said she got "mixed reactions" from parents as she picketed. "One parent gave me an ugly look," she said. "Others seemed supportive." As the teachers marched, school officials occasionally watched from windows in the building.
Dean Waldfogel, assistant superintendent, called student attendance Tuesday "much better than expected." He said "normal" attendance would be 90 to 95%, and "today it's running 70% to 80% in the elementary schools and about 70% in the secondary schools."
Some teachers said they thought attendance was off. Waldfogel said that although the teachers' union has denied that students were encouraged to stay home Tuesday, some parents had complained that a few teachers suggested that absence would show support of the strike. Union officials later said that was not true.
Ken Horner, president of the Irvine Teachers Assn., said the present, two-year contract specifically allows reopened negotiations for not only salary but also fringe benefits and other items. In addition to a salary increase, the association is seeking a stronger role for the union in grievance issues, mandatory union membership and a lid on health insurance costs.
Corey said the district, while in one of the wealthiest per-capita cities in California, has "the lowest base revenue (tax base) of any (unified) district in Orange County and is just average for the state."
Irvine voters in 1983 rejected a proposal of extra local taxes to support the schools.
Corey said that, despite lack of a strong tax base, Irvine teachers' salaries are among the highest in the county, ranging from $19,084 to $36,100.