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Teachers in Orange Stage Surprise Strike Over Pay

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Times Staff Writer

A teachers’ strike unexpectedly hit the 24,500-student Orange Unified School District Thursday and threatened to continue today and into next week.

The strike was hastily called by union leaders after negotiations broke down about 4 a.m. Thursday. When school started, four hours later, 565 of the system’s 1,100 teachers were absent. There are 37 schools in the sprawling district, which serves the cities of Orange, Villa Park and parts of Anaheim and Santa Ana in Orange County.

Student absenteeism was as high as 40% in some high schools and middle schools, but the district said it got enough substitute teachers to hold regular classes.

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District teachers engaged in a one-day strike on April 12 and also have had two massive “sickouts” that the union said it did not authorize. No new negotiations are scheduled.

“We will not negotiate while a strike is going on,” said Russell Barrios, president of the district’s school board.

As in the scheduled one-day strike Wednesday by 180 teachers in the 5,350-student Huntington Beach City School District, the Orange Unified strike centers on a pay raise for the teachers. The Orange Education Assn. has been asking for more than the 2.54% one-time pay bonus that the school district has offered.

Contingency Cutbacks

Mark Rona, president of the Orange Education Assn., the teachers’ union, said the district wanted the union to agree to contingency cutbacks in proposed pay hikes if the state budget passed by the Legislature this summer gives less than a 4.1% increase to education.

He said the teachers will stay out today and will continue to strike until the matter is settled.

According to school administrators, Orange Unified teachers average $33,307 a year in pay, with salaries ranging from $21,686 to $40,628.

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