Updated 10:18 p.m.
Students will be back in class on Monday as Sacramento City Unified School District officials forged an agreement with teachers and employees to end a strike that had closed classrooms since March 23.
“We are so happy and grateful to share that we have reached agreements with our labor partners and SEIU and SCTA have suspended their labor strike,” the district wrote in an email on Sunday evening. “Schools will reopen for our students on Monday, April 4. School bus transportation schedules will also resume as usual. We encourage all families to send students back to school tomorrow.”
A Sacramento teacher blog confirmed the agreement on Sunday evening, as well, writing that “[o]ur unions and the district reached contracts late Sunday night – school is open tomorrow, Monday!”
Teachers and workers have been on strike for more than a week, citing ongoing staffing shortages that resulted in overcrowded classrooms and buses and also unsafe working conditions during the pandemic.
“From start to finish, our members have been united in the belief that schools should be adequately staffed with a teacher in front of every classroom,” SCTA President David Fisher wrote in a statement. “Additionally, we were united in our belief that concessions in healthcare benefits were unacceptable at a time when the district was receiving increased funding."
Throughout the negotiations, SCUSD officials stressed the financial pressures on the district, and its hesitance to use one-time COVID-19 funding on ongoing expenses. The district is the only one out of the 13 in Sacramento County under fiscal oversight from the County Office of Education.
“In achieving these agreements with SCTA and SEIU we did all that we could to demonstrate how highly we value our employees who will return to schools tomorrow to provide the care and support that our students deserve,” SCUSD Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar wrote in a statement. “The agreements balance the needs of students and employees through the use of one-time funds and ongoing spending that we hope to manage successfully in the near future."
The strike had many parents in the district, home to more than 40,000 students, reliving the early days of the pandemic when classrooms were shut down.
In the first week of the strike, parent Cansuelo Chavez said it was difficult to balance life.
“I work and it’s hard — I have to select babysitters and arrange everything,” she said March 25. “They could open the schools for the kids, we’ve already lost a lot of time from COVID-19.”
The agreement reached Sunday, which the unions call "tentative," will provide increased pay to teachers and staff, higher pay for substitute teachers, and maintain an equivalent level of health care benefits for teachers. The agreement also states the two sides will look for additional health care options by the end of August, and that any savings go to fund positions "providing equitable learning for all students."
The end of the strike is the latest step in months of tense negotiations between the district and its teacher and classified staff unions, the Sacramento City Teachers Association and SEIU Local 1021. The two unions represent roughly 4,600 educators and classified staff.
The district declared an impasse in December with the SCTA over COVID-19 negotiations. The teachers union's most recent contract with the district expired in 2019, while the classified staff union’s most recent contract ended in 2020.
The two unions voted to authorize a strike March 10, and then officially walked off the job March 23, six days after a fact-finding panel from the California Public Employment Relations Board released its recommendations.
Over the past week, teachers and staff demonstrated at school sites across the city and at the district's Serna Center headquarters. Labor activist and United Farm Workers co-founder Delores Huerta joined the strike for a day last week.
In the first week of the strike, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond invited all parties to meet, including the Sacramento County Office of Education. The district declined the meeting.
It was unclear heading into the weekend if a deal would be reached. Local leaders called on both sides to come to an agreement, while a group of parents staged a sit-in at the school district's headquarters in support of the teachers.
"It’s long past time for the parties to do as all 12 of our other Sacramento districts have managed to do – keep the disputes at the bargaining table and collaboratively work out their differences while children come back to school," Dave Gordon, the superintendent of Sacramento County's 13 school districts, wrote in a statement Friday.
The district says the SCUSD Board of Education will vote to ratify the agreements reached with SCTA and SEIU at an upcoming meeting.
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