Hundreds converge on city school board meeting to fight for higher teacher salaries

In what was not a typical school board meeting, hundreds of teachers, parents and students marched into the Sacramento City Unified School District’s board room this past Thursday to discuss a raise in pay and a dire lack of educators.

More than 20 people supported the Sacramento City Teachers Association during the meeting’s hour-long public comments period—a time usually reserved for about 20 minutes. Teachers and parents urged the board to do more to ensure the retention of teachers and the hiring of new ones.

The first step, SCTA says, is to give teachers a 5 percent retroactive salary raise for this school year, which will make their pay comparable to other districts like San Juan and Elk Grove. The district has offered 2.5 percent.

“Without having seen the numbers, teachers implicitly understand that the district’s priorities are out of whack,” SCTA President Nikki Milevsky told the board.

Milevsky presented statistics to the board Thursday night that showed wage disparities between SCUSD and the 12 other Sacramento County districts. According to the SCTA’s numbers, the average teacher salary ranks 12th out of the 13 county districts, but is second in school enrollment.

The wage gap between the competing districts, Milevsky said, is a large reason why SCUSD has 80 teaching vacancies, and why more vacancies are expected to open in the next school year. In a survey done by the SCTA, 54 percent of 914 teachers said they have considered leaving the district because of salary issues.

Board President Christina Pritchett told the audience that, although it is of high priority, the board must to go over the budget before it can come to an agreement on an increase of teacher salary.

“As a board, we also have a statutory, and moral, responsibility to look after the long-term financial health of our district,” Pritchett said. “The last thing we want to do is spend beyond our means to only have to turn around and lay teachers off if the economy takes a downward turn.”

Elizabeth Barry, SCUSD’s student board member, whose mother is a teacher in the district, also offered her support of the SCTA’s fight for higher salary.

“You can’t pay teachers enough, and I know, because I know how much hard work goes into teaching, and I don’t think anyone else on this board really does,” Barry said.