Stung by pandemic fallout, Sacramento teachers strike for a third day

 Striking Sacramento teachers hold picket signs
Katie Ragle sits with daughters Eliana, left, and Delilah as they support teachers at Alice Birney Waldorf Inspired K-8 School during the start of the Sacramento City Teachers Assn. strike.
(Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee)
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A teachers strike in Sacramento — fueled by pay issues, severe staffing shortages and heavy workloads that have hit districts nationwide — wrapped up day three without movement toward ending a walkout that has kept 43,000 students out of school.

Union leaders representing thousands of Sacramento teachers and school workers signaled momentary optimism early Friday about a possible new round of bargaining at the request of State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. But Sacramento City Unified School District Supt. Jorge A. Aguilar rejected the invitation.

The strike comes at a time when teachers throughout the state and nation are confronting the exhausting and challenging fallout from the pandemic. Protracted staffing shortages have compounded workloads. The stress of online classes has taxed teachers, parents and students alike. Educational recovery this academic year has been difficult as many students have struggled to adjust to in-person learning after months of isolation.


In Sacramento, these issues came to a head. And when teachers walked out Wednesday, school officials shut campuses.

“The SCUSD school board has been more focused on canceling school than negotiating ways to keep them open and staff them,” Sacramento City Teachers Assn. President and second-grade teacher David Fisher said in a statement.

The developments in Sacramento come as the teachers union in another major U.S. city, Minneapolis, reached a tentative agreement Friday to end a strike that started more than two weeks ago over limited resources.

Surging coronavirus cases among students and staff due to the Omicron variant have put schools under intense strain, exhausting teachers and increasing student anxiety.

Jan. 15, 2022

At a rally Friday in Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Park, Fisher announced that Thurmond had called SCUSD to meet at the bargaining table with teachers union leaders and the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, members of the school board, and the Sacramento County Office of Education.

But union representatives said the school district didn’t show up for the Friday-afternoon meeting.

Aguilar issued a statement Friday after Thurmond’s call and requested that the teachers union make a counteroffer to the district’s final proposal prior to the strike.


“With a counterproposal, the district’s negotiators are prepared to meet around the clock with SCTA so that we can bring our students in on Monday,” Aguilar said.

The unions, which represent 2,800 teachers and 1,800 school employees, voted earlier this month to strike over staffing shortages, teachers said, despite federal funding and a budget surplus that the district could tap.

“A majority of the entire SCUSD workforce — classified staff, educators and administrators — has declared no confidence in this superintendent and school board’s leadership,” SEIU 1021 SCUSD Chapter President Karla Faucett said in a statement.

SCUSD canceled classes at its 76 schools after negotiations with the two unions failed. Teachers, other school employees, parents and supporters marched Friday to City Hall.

“This is certainly something that is not ideal for our community,” Aguilar told KXTV Channel 10 on Wednesday. “I’m hopeful that this will end very soon.”

A Los Angeles Times analysis of data offers an alarming assessment of the impact of the pandemic on L.A. students.

Oct. 21, 2021

Fisher said in a statement that without “serious movement at the bargaining table,” union members would begin door-to-door outreach among voters in board members’ districts.


Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg urged action from both sides to end the strike immediately.

“Both sides need to get to the table, and they need to compromise. I know enough of this history to know that this has gotten very personal,” Steinberg said during an interview on KRCR-TV Channel 7 . He helped mediate negotiations between the school district and teachers in 2017. “I want the strike to end, obviously, for the parents, the teachers and, mostly, for the kids.”

“Kids have missed enough school. Their education and mental health are at stake,” Steinberg said in a statement Wednesday. “They will continue to suffer if the adults continue to fight among themselves.”

Tense negotiations have been underway in other California school districts as well. The Mount Diablo district in the San Francisco Bay Area reached a tentative agreement with teachers March 19, and in Sonoma County’s Cotati-Rohnert Park district, teachers returned to work March 17 after a six-day strike.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.