Public Education Under Fire – Capistrano Unified Teachers’ Strike Starts Tomorrow – What Parents Can Do

There was a teacher strike reprieve two days ago when this release came out: “Capistrano Teachers Issue Bargaining Proposal Designed to Prevent Strike.

The teachers’ position in their battle with the CUSD Board of Trustees has been rather simple.  Cuts need to be made and the teachers have been willing to take cuts in pay and benefits, but what they will not do is take them permanently nor give up their bargaining rights.

They also want the Board of Trustees to sit down with them behind closed doors and bargain at a table as two interested parties should do. Not via warring press releases or even worse, as the board has done, one press release to the public and a different communication to CUEA, the union representing the CUSD teachers.

It was a tense day yesterday as many waited to hear what the Board would do as teachers offered their olive branch, a chance to bargain.

ALISO VIEJO – Challenging the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Education to back up vague offers to “entertain discussion” related to bargaining, the 2,200 members of the Capistrano Unified Education Association invite the board back to the bargaining table to negotiate, based upon the following proposals:

  • The board will reverse the permanent nature of salary and benefits cuts they imposed March 31 by making them temporary;
  • There will be no increase in class size;
  • The board will restore salary, unpaid work days, and benefits cuts if unforeseen funds are received;
  • The board will implement already agreed to contract language that deals with working conditions, transfer of teachers, and leaves as stipulated to in the fact finding hearing.
  • “It has never been the goal of Capistrano teachers to strike,” said CUEA President Vicki Soderberg. “We have always been willing to bargain in good faith, and we immediately accepted the neutral fact finder’s settlement recommendation. Although the CUSD school board’s unilateral imposition forced us into voting a strike authorization, we much prefer to settle our differences through bargaining.”

    “In recent media reports and direct communications to teachers, the CUSD Board of Education has implied that they are willing to bargain with the teachers, but the board has yet to make a formal, direct proposal to CUEA. We want our members, our students, the public, and the board to be perfectly clear that we do not want to strike and that we want to reach a negotiated settlement. We challenge the board to live up to their recent statements and accept our proposal for an agreement,” said Soderberg.

    All the teachers want is to negotiate the points stipulated in this proposal, all of which were supported by the independent mediator appointed by the State to attempt to come to an agreement.

    The Board of Trustees had until 5 pm yesterday, Tuesday, to answer CUEA’s proposal. They waited until the last possible moment to do so, and did it in a way that was hostile and rather patronizing. The letter to the teachers did not come from the Trustees but from their Lawyers.

    The money quote from the letter is this, “Pre-conditioning a return to the bargaining table upon the acceptance of a negotiation proposal backed up by a threat of a strike constitutes, among other things, an unfair labor practice.”

    Apparently the Board’s lawyer is not very familiar with the Wagner Act, since threatening to strike does not, in and of itself, constitute an unfair labor practice. Or perhaps she’s just posturing… Either way, the last thing teachers want to do is strike.

    This is what we all must understand as parents, that the teachers do not want to strike.  This is not an easy choice for them and it is not one that they make lightly.

    Capistrano School Board Rejects Teachers’ Proposal
    Ambiguous offer to negotiate begins with veiled threat

    ALISO VIEJO – “If you’re really serious about bargaining, you don’t start out by threatening legal action. Once again the Capistrano Board of Education is attempting to equivocate and obfuscate instead of negotiate,” said CUEA President Vicki Soderberg.

    “Despite the board’s vague offer to commence negotiations ‘regarding various issues,’ they are flatly rejecting to bargain CUEA’s specific, unambiguous proposal. We clearly gave them a chance to avert a strike and their refusal leaves teachers no choice. CUEA members will walk the picket lines beginning, Thursday, April 22. At the same time, our bargaining team will accept the board’s invitation to talk on Thursday. If we determine that they are serious about reaching a settlement, teachers and students can be back in the schools Friday. It’s up to the board to prove they’re serious about reaching a settlement.”

    In a formal request delivered early Monday, April 19, giving the Capistrano board a 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 20 deadline to respond, CUEA asked the board to come back to the bargaining table to negotiate based on the following specific proposals:

    1. The board will reverse the permanent nature of salary and benefits cuts they imposed March 31 by making them temporary;
    1. There will be no increase in class size;
    1. The board will restore salary, unpaid work days, and benefits cuts if 4. unforeseen funds are received;

    The board will implement already agreed to contract language that deals with working conditions, transfer of teachers, and leaves as stipulated to in the fact finding hearing.

    “Where in the board’s response is the mention of making the permanent cuts temporary and of being willing to enter into the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the board has informally offered in public throughout the last two weeks? Where is a clear, unambiguous offer to restore the cuts if unforeseen funds become available? The teachers’ proposal was explicit. Given the board’s history of duplicitous behavior, they have to make unequivocally clear that they want to reach a settlement. Teachers are far beyond ‘sham bargaining’ cloaked in vague, confusing, and ambiguous promises,” said Soderberg.

    “The board’s rejection of our clear proposal and their continued ambiguity has put us where we never wanted to be. It is unfortunate that the board wants chaos instead of clear communication. It has never been the teachers’ goal to strike, but if it takes walking the picket line to bring the board to a place of clarity and mutual respect, then teachers have no choice. We must stand firm for our profession, for our students, and for the long-term stability of the district.”

    So, now what?

    If we want this strike to be short we must support teachers in the next few days and we must be clear that the Board of Trustees should accept the four simple requests outlined above.

    The more students who are kept home, the more parents who stand side by side with teachers, and the more parents who call and email the Trustees about this, the more likely it is  this will end quickly.

    Here is what you can do…

  • KEEP YOUR KIDS at HOME or even better, bring them with you to support the teachers
  • Honk and wave and let the teachers know you support their efforts
  • Be respectful of parents who bring their kids to school and substitutes! Do not make things worse by showing anger against your neighbors and friends
  • Walk with the teachers for a few minutes or a few hours
  • Make your own signs showing you support the teachers
  • Call 949-234-9210 or email Superintendent Mahler (superintendent@capousd.org) and Anna Bryson (anna@annabryson.com) and let them know you support the teachers and that they should negotiate with them.
  • Bring water, snacks or other items to teachers who are striking
  • Talk to a neighbor or two to let them know the facts that are being poorly reported in the Orange County Register
  • Donate to the strike fund
  • Attend a rally in support of the teachers — at the CUSD district office on Saturday from 9 am until noon, or at the Ladera Cox sports park on Sunday from 11 am until 2 pm
  • Let people know that there is an effort to recall a portion of this board
  • And this is the most important thing to remember: teachers would rather be teaching than striking.

    There is a lot at stake here. People and members of the press outside of Orange County are paying attention. The LA Times have written a piece about this issue.  Let’s show them that parents support teachers, that we support public education and that we believe Capistrano Unified School District to be one of the best districts in California and that it deserves to retain the amazing teachers it has.

    The LA Times got it right the first time unlike the OC Register, which has failed to get the issue correct the many times it has written about the ongoing negotiations.

    The teachers’ union has said it will accept the pay cuts only if the district agrees to make them temporary, according to Vicki Soderberg, president the Capistrano Unified Education Assn.

    Soderberg said teachers also want the district to promise it will funnel to teachers’ salaries any unforeseen state or federal funding that may come in. The union, a local chapter of the California Teachers Association, voted to call the strike last week, Soderberg said.

    “Teachers don’t want to strike,” she said. “But they’re being forced to do so.”

    It’s the shock doctrine. Public education is the next in line to go — privatize education.  Just last week our local paper printed the list of teachers to be laid off in Orange County.

    Orange County school districts have started releasing the names of teachers and other staff who were issued layoff warnings on March 15 or told their temporary contracts won’t be renewed.

    Click here to see our database of the staff members who have been warned.

    In all, 2,586 educators have been given pink slips, though districts acknowledged that the figure is likely greater than those who will receive final notices May 15.

    Heather Pritchard

    I'm new to political blogging but have been writing most of my life about different things. I campaigned for President Clinton when he was just Governor Clinton in Orange County. I graduated from Smith College with a BA in English and a minor in Film. I work full time, have a lovely four year old daughter named Charlotte, my husband teaches full time at Cerritos College in Norwalk in the Music Department. Gary has a Ph.D in Ethnomusicology from UCI. I hope to go back to school in some form or another, maybe sociology or economics. I've even thought of Law school. Our newest edition to the household is our Weimaraner Sophie. 

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      9 comments for “Public Education Under Fire – Capistrano Unified Teachers’ Strike Starts Tomorrow – What Parents Can Do

    1. lefty
      April 21, 2010 at 6:52 pm

      American’s are to short-sighted to pay USA union wages for USA mfg goods …. (give us that cheap 3rd world (near slave) labor, so we can have our cheap, 3rd world mfg goods).

      So now the “trickle down” … is trickling down.

      If you won’t pay your neighbors union wage – HOW CAN THEY PAY YOURS?

      imo

    2. April 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm

      I am a CUSD teacher and union representative. I am also a conservative. However, there are lunatic liberals and lunatic conservatives in our political landscape. There should be a middle ground where rational people can come and meet, free from ill diatribe. Sadly, the Board of Trustees has forgotten about that simple point. As a conservative, I’m doubly saddened by my fellow conservatives on the board who flaunt collective bargaining laws and procedures and act dictatorially. As a history teacher, their behavior is reminiscnent of Stalin and Mao. I am gladdened by the simple fact that five are up for reelection or recall come November, but I worry about the damage they will perpetrate before then upon our high performing and, until now, extremely well-respected school district.

      I will walk to picket line. I will not yield. I will not break. I will not surrender. I believe in democracy and rational discourse. i believe in collective bargaining. It is a shame that this dictatorial and totalitarian board does not.

      My fellow teachers and I thank you for your support, and we pray for a quick settlement so that we can return to our most important duty, that of educating the youth of our neighborhoods.

    3. Steve
      April 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm

      I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. a blue collar town. I learned first hand while growing up that union’s were created to protect the rights of their members. This includes salary, benefits and the work environment. When faced with oppressive behavior and threats to their livelyhood the only recourse the membership has is to strike. This is typically a last recourse and never meant to bring harm to anyone. It is meant to send a messeage, we are united, we are one. I applaud the teachers for standing up for their rights and encourage them all to stand together. One voice, one message, stand strong. Keep the faith we support you.

    4. concerned parent
      April 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm

      I read that parents are encouraged to keep their children home in support of the teachers. I’d planned to send mine so that the district will be forced to provide enough subs OR close the school. Does anyone know what ratio has to exist for the elementary schools to remain open?

      My support is with the teachers and I want to make sure that keeping my kids home will not make it easier for the district.

    5. kenlaysnotdead
      April 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm

      Whats the deal with the board, nor the superintendents participating in the negociations (as reported on KNX 1070, ABC7, KCBS2, KCAL9 and KFI640)?

      Could this possibly be true? That a team representing the publically elected representitives are handling this. What about the Super, whose job it is to manage the district.

      This is crazy!!

    6. pam
      April 26, 2010 at 5:41 pm

      I think all you teachers need to quit your boo hooing and get back to work. There are soooo many people out of work that would love to take your job. You teachers are paid more that alot of other states and your still whine. I am so glad my daughter is in private school so that we don’t have to put up with teachers like the ones on strike. Quit your whining and get back to work!!!!

      • April 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm

        Pam — clearly you have little clue about what teachers do all day and the amount of time it takes to plan, grade papers and otherwise keep a classroom full of kids engaged daily. Might I suggest you sign up to teach a junior achievement class. They provide all the materials and it’s about three hours of your time. Trust me, you will emerge exhausted and frustrated especially when you see that first kid asleep in the back. But thanks for excerising your choice to put your kid in private school.

        • Shocking
          April 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

          You forgot to admonish Pam for her religious rhetoric. Obviously, the private school her brainwashed brat attends is a religious school. Hardly any are non-religious.

          Public school teaches children social skills, interaction with other cultures, and hopefully teaches them life skills that parents are too cowardly to teach. They expect the teacher to do that.

          These do-gooders on the CUSD board are religious zealots who want to replace public education with vouchers and their God.

          I say ban religion by changing the 1st Amendment. Religion is what is detroying America and and the world and our children just get brainwashed into all this hypocrisy.

          “THE DOORSTEP TO THE TEMPLE OF WISDOM IS A KNOWLEDGE OF OUR OWN IGNORANCE.” Benjamin Franklin, a wise Founding Father

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