Teachers picket as district, union tell their sides

The Chico Unified School District and its teachers’ union met June 2 to present their sides of the salary story to a fact-finding panel.

And, in what Chico Unified Teachers Association leaders called probably the best turnout ever for such an event, teachers were on hand outside the CUSD District Office with picket signs and chants.

The Saturday morning showing was so great—several hundred teachers attended—that the union cancelled its planned June 6 picketing of the district office.

As for the fact-finding session itself, CUTA President Dan Sours said it was “same old, same old.”

The union remains frustrated, Sours said, largely because members believe the district is not passing along enough of the more than $6 million in unexpected new money it’s received from the state. Then, at the fact-finding session, CUSD representatives suddenly tried to use a set of other districts different from the list that has long been cited as those “comparable” to the CUSD. Sours also observed the district never formally pled an “inability to pay” before the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).

CUSD Assistant Superintendent Jim Sands countered both those assertions. “We provided data that showed that if the district were to give teachers 10 percent like they requested, or even 7 percent, the board would be forced to make cuts next year in the millions of dollars,” he said. The CUSD “most definitely” cannot afford the raise the union is asking, Sands said.

Sands agreed that the district showed up with a new list of 20 regional school districts. But, he said, the CUSD never really liked the list the CUTA was using. “I have never found anywhere the district said it agreed on [those comparables],” Sands said. “This district has for a number of years been silent on that.” But now, he said, it’s important to look at unified districts that, like Chico’s, are fairly rural and saddled with declining enrollment.

As the debate rages on, the union is asking members who are ending their school year to get all personal items out of the classroom, wear union T-shirts, put “Our Fair Share” signs in their car windows and send back Superintendent Scott Brown’s June 1 newsletter with a note “that he should be sending those messages through our bargaining team.” (The newsletter talked about demands on the CUSD budget and the “sincere hope that a resolution to this current stalemate can be found soon, and that all energies of every resource in this school district can once again be focused on best serving the needs of students.")

The fact-finding panel, made up of a person chosen by the district, another by the union, and a neutral third, has 30 days to submit its report, after which there is a 10-day review period. Then, the district can accept the panel’s recommendation, negotiate some more or impose another offer. If the union doesn’t like it, teachers can legally strike.