Teachers resolute as CUSD readies for strike

If Chico teachers are going to strike, the school district wants to be ready for it.

Several items on the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees’ agenda for June 20 were designed to prepare the district if the teachers’ union calls for a strike, as it has threatened to do if an offer closer to its requested 10-percent raise isn’t made.

The resolutions delegate some powers in an emergency to the superintendent, including: hiring substitutes at $275 a day, docking teachers’ pay and benefits if they don’t show up to work, and making sure any grades given during a strike aren’t modified later.

“It’s disheartening to have to do that,” said board President Scott Schofield in an interview before the meeting. “It continues to focus negative energy on a situation that is just exasperating.”

The teachers say they need more money, Schofield said, and “it just never seems to be enough.”

The district offered about a 4-percent raise, but the Chico Unified Teachers Association, especially annoyed that many districts gave double-digit raises after unexpected new money came down from Gov. Gray Davis, rejected that offer, and contract negotiations and mediation failed. A report by a fact-finding panel is due July 2.

“The bottom line is [that] if the district would just offer us our fair share of the $6 million, we wouldn’t be here,” said Dan Sours, president of the CUTA. “I don’t think anybody wins in a strike.”

Sours also predicted that the district would have a hard time rounding up substitutes without looking out of town. “I don’t think there’s enough scabs in this community to cross a picket line.”

The $275 day rate for strike-time subs—more than triple the usual sub pay—is based on the average teacher’s salary in the CUSD, Brown said.

“We have an obligation to keep schools open and keep those students and substitutes who come to work as safe as possible,” Superintendent Scott Brown said. “I hope it doesn’t come to this. I’m still hoping to resolve this short of a strike. But we’ve got to prepare.”

While Chico is worrying about threat of a strike, the Fairfield-Suisun School District has just been through one.

Sours traveled to Fairfield “to see what a strike looked like.”

"It was an interesting mixture of pain and delirium," he said. The energy and unity of the teachers were exhilarating, but the limited amount of education going on was "a bummer."