In their own words: Sacramento City Unified teachers on why they’re striking

Sacramento City Unified School District teachers are striking Thursday over what they say are unfair labor practices, including an allegation that the district is not honoring the terms of a 2017 agreement.

Classes remain in session and bus service and school meals are being offered as normal. Some teachers crossed the picket line to teach their students, though the majority are participating in the strike.

The 2017 agreement brokered by Mayor Darrell Steinberg was supposed to pour $22 million over three years into pay increases, smaller class sizes, more art and music teachers and other improvements. Two years into the contract, the Sacramento City Teachers Association says not enough progress has been made.

»»Full coverage: Hundreds of Sacramento teachers stage one-day strike

Sacramento Bee reporters visited three district schools Thursday morning as hundreds of faculty members across the city formed picket lines rather than enter their classrooms. Here’s why they said they’re striking:

Theodore Judah Elementary School

“It’s one broken promise after another ... it’s like sticking candy in front of a baby and saying, ‘No you can’t have that anymore. Even though I promised it to you, it’s not going to happen.;” - 2nd grade teacher Claudia Pineda-Wong.

“All the childhood development teachers were laid off. That’s part of the unfair labor practices. We don’t really know what went into it, the layoffs were discussed behind closed doors by the school board. There was not open discussion.” - language, speech and hearing specialist Monica Harvey.

“This strike isn’t about the raise, its about what we can do for our students ... it broke my heart driving to school today because I knew I was going to have to do this instead of going into the classroom.” - special education teacher Kristin Wilson.

Rosa Parks K-8 School

“When they told us it was not financially feasible for them to give us Kleenex for the students, you (knew) there was a problem. Our students deserve more than that. They do. And it’s allergy season. It breaks my heart to send them to the bathroom to use paper towels that tear up their face.” - 1st grade teacher Lucia Drake.

“We have always wanted our children to honor things. When you make a promise, you have to follow through, and (Superintendent Jorge Aguilar) has not managed to follow through on a contract.” - 7th grade math teacher and SCTA treasurer Laura Shirley.

“I think (the district) will realize how unified we are, and I think they’ll realize that when it’s time to discuss matters with us, they need to take it more seriously. Because we’re serious about what we want, and that is all connected to opportunity for these students.” - 6th grade teacher John Brindley.

C.K. McClatchy High School

“We have extremely large class sizes. It’s about a 35-to-1 ratio, and that’s standard here. We’ve always been on edge.” - government teacher Lori Jablonski.

“When the class sizes are so big, it’s hard to reach every single student. Grading so many papers takes away from preparing lessons and one-on-one (instruction).” - English teacher Brian Perry

“Our nurses run from school to school assisting diabetics and keeping medically fragile students safe.” - psychologist and SCTA first vice president Nikki Milevsky.

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.
Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A Sacramento native, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.