Teachers try to sink subs as strike looms
Chico teachers confronted their potential replacements last week, as the first day of the traditional school year neared and an agreement on salaries seemed ever further away.
Union and district leaders held out some hope that a negotiation session set for Aug. 15, after the News & Review’s press time, could result in a settlement and avert a strike. If not, teachers would vote Aug. 17 on whether to take that step. “We had hoped that it would be a ratification meeting,” said Dan Sours, president of the Chico Unified Teachers Association. “But it does not seem like the attitude of the district has changed.”
When union members heard Aug. 8 that the Chico Unified School District was processing the applications of people who would substitute-teach for $275 a day in the event of a strike, nearly three dozen teachers immediately took up picket signs and marched outside the District Office on East Seventh Street.
Chris Persson, who teaches in the ACT program at Chico High School, approached every stranger going up the front steps. “Excuse me. Are you here to substitute teach if there is a strike?” she asked one woman, who nodded nervously in the affirmative. “Please consider the ethical choice that you’re making.”
The woman, her head lowered, said, “I hope there won’t be [a strike], but I have to put food on my table.”
Union members snapped pictures of some of the applicants as they entered or left.
Jim Sands, deputy superintendent for the CUSD, said the picketers were trespassing and “harassing” applicants to such a degree that he called the police, who came and laid out ground rules for the protest: Stay on the sidewalk and don’t threaten or intimidate.
In a battle that’s become more visible with each failed step toward resolution, the Chico Unified Teachers Association insists its members will strike if the CUSD doesn’t turn over its “fair share” of about $6 million in new money from the state for teacher salaries. The district has offered a 4.76 percent raise for 2001-02; the union’s most-recent compromise offer was 8.5 percent.
In turn, the CUSD says giving in to teachers’ demands would cause layoffs and program cuts that would decimate Chico schools.
Sands said the district is prepared for a strike if one does occur. It expects 300 to 400 substitutes will be enough to cover for up to 700 teachers, because, “We know that not all the students are going to show.”
He added that for every day a student misses school, the district would lose $33.