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I knew nothing about the situation in the Capistrano School District until last week, when Ellinorianne started posting about the developing situation.  School boards and district administrators are taking too many liberties in deciding what they will do in order to balance their budgets.  Instead of sitting down and negotiating for the best and most equitable solution, they would rather make unilateral decisions that affect teachers and students.  So, today, the teachers of the Capistrano Unified School District voted by 87% to take on these bullies and to fight, not just against the 10% pay cut mandated by the school board, but against the vast educational conspiracy among politicians that they, not teachers, are the experts at educating students.

Please be patient if I do this wrong, I don't have much experience with diaries.

ALISO VIEJO – Capistrano Unified School District teachers, frustrated and angry over a 10.1 percent pay cut imposed on them by the school board, have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, union leaders announced Friday.
Nearly 87 percent of the 1,848 teachers who cast ballots over a two-day period ending Friday voted to give their union governing board the power to decide when, or if, they will walk off the job.

Hundreds of students, teachers and parents gather outside Capistrano Unified School District headquarters in San Juan Capistrano on Tuesday night to protest the 10.1 pay cut imposed on teachers by the school board.

“The teachers really get what this is all about,” said Vicki Soderberg, president of the Aliso Viejo-based Capistrano Unified Education Association union. “We are standing up to the bullies (the school board), and we are standing up for our rights to bargain our contract and not be bullied.”
The strike vote – which was open to all 2,200 teachers and other certificated employees in the district – gives the union’s governing board the authority to initiate a strike if the school board refuses to return to the bargaining table.

The board will meet Monday to discuss the issue.

Okay, so exactly what will they be discussing, that they couldn't have discussed before?  Of course, teachers "get" what this is all about - they are the ones in the classrooms, and they are the ones who teach students how to handle bullies.  Now, they get the chance to give an example of that lesson.

Capistrano Unified trustee Ken Lopez-Maddox said he believes the strike vote was politically motivated and not about the teachers’ contract at all.“This has never been about the contract; the union is upset over being on the losing end of the last two elections,” said Lopez-Maddox, referring to the June 2008 and November 2008 school board races, when the teachers’ union opposed the winning candidates.

“They’re hoping a strike will cause the taxpayers to turn on the board,” said Lopez-Maddox, who is being targeted in a recall attempt. “The bottom line is we’ve done everything we can. We don’t have the money to pay them what they want.”

A strike in Capistrano Unified would be the district’s first since at least the 1970s. The last teacher strike in Orange County was in 2000 – and it was over pay raises.

Politically motivated?  Oh, yeah...it is really about a school board that is made up of people who have no respect for public school teachers and who want to break up the union.  It is about politicians who have taken control of education and are horrified over the fact that teachers will stand up to them.  Oh, yeah, Mr. Lopez- Maddox, it is politically motivated...to take back educational decisions from school boards who don't respect the expertise of those who TEACH.  Teachers are the experts, Mr. Lopez-Maddox, and they are telling you now that they will not be bullied!

Union leaders are furious over the school board’s decision last month to unilaterally impose a 10.1 percent pay cut on all district teachers, after months of unsuccessful negotiations.

The union insists that the school district – Orange County’s second largest – return to the bargaining table to hash out a compromise with teachers.

“The main thing is we have to have a voice at the bargaining table,” said Chris Dollar, a social science teacher at Mission Viejo’s Capistrano Valley High School who voted in favor of the strike. “If we give that up, we will never get it back.”

The most recent Orange County teacher strike was in Orange Unified in April 2000, when up to 70 percent of teachers picketed for one day to protest an employment contract imposed on them by the school board, according to news reports.

Orange Unified leaders said the contract gave teachers an 8 percent raise retroactive to two years earlier; union leaders disputed that figure and stressed it would not bring teacher pay up to the county median.
The school board did not back down, and teachers returned to work after the one-day strike.

Mr. Dollar is correct.  If the teachers give up their collective bargaining rights, then the union busters win - and teachers will never be able to bargain for the rights of their students again.  Many of these "union busters" like to say that teachers are only interested in getting a better salary and benefits - WRONG!  The bargaining process does include salary and benefits, but it also includes things like class size, elective classes like art and music, school safety and curricular issues.  For years, since NCLB was pushed on school districts, that last issue has been one of the biggest in any school district.  Teachers fight every day for the right to teach their students, not to bubble in answers on a standardized test, but to read, write, figure and critically think about issues in order to make them educated adults.  Teachers are the LAST voice for students and their futures, and by giving up collective bargaining rights, they give up that voice.

“I don’t think the school board is being fair to their teachers,” said Jim Ortiz, a science teacher at Aliso Viejo’s Don Juan Avila Middle School who voted in favor of Capistrano’s strike.

“Trustees are being inconsiderate and a little bit aloof,” added Ortiz, a 40-year educator who also participated in a teacher strike in Huntington Beach in the 1970s. “They are going to hurt our school district.”

Lopez-Maddox said it would be impractical to “begin an entire year’s worth of negotiations over now” and emphasized that the school board has tried to be responsive to teachers, despite the imposed pay cut.

Just hours before approving the imposition, the school district removed a clause that was generating considerable angst among teachers, Lopez-Maddox noted. The clause stated that Capistrano Unified “reserves the right to implement further reductions, consistent with its pre-impasse offers, should the district’s fiscal outlook deteriorate beyond current budget projections.”

Mr. Lopez-Maddox, that yearlong negotiation process included an impasse, and a negotiating session with a state mediator.  Your school board must not have liked what the mediator said, because you disregarded the advice and pushed on with that 10% pay cut. The school board's actions are not about a 10% pay cut, either...they are politically motivated.

Also, trustees on Wednesday expressed a willingness to meet with union leaders to discuss whether the pay cut will become temporary – via a non-bargaining route known as a memorandum of understanding – although they said they would not reopen contract negotiations.

“We can never make them happy no matter what we try to do,” Lopez-Maddox said. “Every time the teachers union comes to the board and asks for X, we say OK. Then they say, ‘That’s not good enough. We want you to do Y.’ They have a moving target.”

Once again, it is those greedy teachers' fault...when did you say "okay" to X, Mr. Lopez-Maddox?  From what I have read and heard, you did not do that at all.  You told them "no" from the beginning, and that is why a state mediator was called.

Union leaders have condemned the school board’s gesture to discuss the permanent vs. temporary nature of the pay cut as an attempt at “sham bargaining,” even as many individual teachers say they would be willing to accept the imposed pay cut if it had an expiration date automatically restoring their pay in a year or two.

Union leaders want the district to return to the bargaining table to negotiate each component of the 10.1 percent cut, not simply accept the imposed cuts, even if they are all temporary.

“I just feel like we are between a rock and a hard spot,” said Eric Takach, a metal and woodshop teacher at San Juan Capistrano’s Marco Forster Middle School who declined to say how he voted. “I’ve never seen such bad morale in my life. Teachers are literally crying. It’s hard for me to imagine it’s not affecting students. I would hate to think this is all about the school board’s aspirations.”

Many Capistrano teachers say they feel the school board is working against them.

Why not go with furlough days?  Was this even discussed?  A pay cut will affect retirement funds and will be difficult to reinstate.  And yes, of course it is affecting students.  An estimated 40% of the district's students stayed home on a "sick out day" in support of their teachers - a day that parents organized.

M

uch of the animosity stems from the fact that several sitting trustees received heavy financial support during their campaigning from the Education Alliance, a Tustin-based political action committee that, among other things, opposes the power and influence of teachers unions.
Trustees have adamantly denied they are ideologically aligned with the Education Alliance.

Still, the way trustees have been communicating with teachers and the public has continued to fan the flames of dissent.

The district e-mailed a letter to teachers this week saying, “Simply put, CUEA has choices,” according to the one-page document.

“Hopefully CUEA leadership will consider the even greater personal sacrifice, both emotionally and financially, they would be asking of their teachers and other members should they request a vote to strike,” the unsigned letter says.

“That upset so many teachers,” said Sally White, the union’s first vice president and a teacher at Laguna Niguel’s George White Elementary School. “Teachers got the letter during the school day. Some people who were on the fence (about the strike) said they’re not on the fence anymore. It’s the bullying and intimidation; teachers feel very harassed.”

Of course they feel harassed, because they are!  

C

apistrano Unified has been preparing for a strike for weeks. The district says it has a list of substitute teachers lined up and has developed lesson plans that could be stretched to last for the duration of the strike.

District officials also have an agreement with two private security firms to hire unarmed guards for all 56 campuses.

The guards would help ensure picketers do not block pedestrian and motorist access to schools.

Oh, no...those horribly violent teachers!!!!  Who knows what they will do - they might just start grading papers and laminating things!

In January, in response to proposed 10 percent pay cuts, teachers engaged in an official, one-week labor slowdown in which they abstained from performing all non-contractual services, such as taking work home and returning parent phone calls at night. The "work to the rule" campaign, teachers said, was an effort to show how much work educators do on their own time, without additional compensation.

The union said 85 percent of its 2,200 members cast strike ballots at Capistrano Unified Education Association headquarters in Aliso Viejo.
About 1,600 teachers and other certificated employees showed up Thursday afternoon, jamming the office’s small parking lot, and scores more came Friday afternoon. Voting was conducted in person only.Oz Simmons, a math teacher at Dana Point’s Dana Hills High School, said he wished that the two sides could “just sit down and talk through” their differences.
“It’s too bad that you have to strike to open someone’s ears,” said Simmons, a 28-year educator.

Thank you, Capistrano School District teachers!  Thank you for being willing to stand up to the bullies and their supporters in order to keep your voice in education!  These brave teachers, some of them temporary and probationary (who have no hiring/firing rights in California), are standing strong for their students and their profession.  This fight is not about the 10% pay cut, or even about whether it is temporary or permanent.  It is about a VOICE...a voice in the increasing noisiness of the "education wars".  Teachers have the only voice of experience - because they have spent day after day and year after year working to educate their students.  They go to bed at night thinking about lesson plans for the next day, or worrying about that student who can't seem to "get it", or thinking about the one who lost or is losing their parents, or hoping that they see a "lightbulb" in class.  You see, only a teacher can really know how much that "lightbulb moment" means - especially when it is a student who worked so hard for it.  We are addicted to that moment, and we do everything in our power to have one every single day.  That moment is why we teach, and why we spend so much time thinking about teaching.  And that moment is why, tonight, there are teachers in the Capistrano School District who are afraid, but unwavering in their commitment to keep their voice.

Teachers of the Capistrano School District, remember this:
         
An injury to one is an injury to all - and that doesn't just mean to your fellow teachers.

Originally posted to msgalnca on Sat Apr 17, 2010 at 12:14 AM PDT.

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