By Sheri Williams
In a bizarre and lengthy letter sent to public school parents in late June, the Sacramento City Unified School District took the unusual step of accusing the teachers union of holding up contract negotiations.
“This is insulting to the teachers,” Nikki Milevsky, president of the teachers association, told The Sacramento Bee. “How dare they use Facebook and eConnection to attack teachers.”
The letter was sent to parents via email through a service known as “eConnection” and was posted on the district’s Facebook page. “Important update regarding next school year” the letter stated in big, bold letters. It continued on to unfairly blame teachers for ongoing contract negotiations, in a seeming bid to turn parents against teachers and incite fear that next year’s classes could be impacted.
“This adult disagreement needs to be resolved during the summer break so it does not impact our ability to provide services to students next year,” the letter said.
Union leaders were quick to condemn the letter’s misleading nature.
After word of the letter spread, many teachers and parents went on Facebook to decry what they saw as an unfair negotiation tactic, one that misrepresented what the teachers union was working to accomplish and brought kids into the dispute.
The Sacramento City Unified School District and the Sacramento City Teachers Association have been in contract negotiations for the past nine months.
During that time, the union has offered several proposals designed to make Sacramento a “destination district.” These proposals include making sure that all classrooms have a credentialed teacher, lowering classroom size and increasing the number of school nurses and psychologists.
The district, however, has refused to embrace the proposals, saying they cannot be implemented at the same time that teachers received pay raises.
The STCA has repeatedly argued that district revenue has grown by 41 percent in the last four years, and its reserve fund has grown by 403 percent to $98 million.
The letter sent to the parents seemed designed to speak directly to that issue, stating “the district is not in the financial position the union claims.”
The fight for a new contract has been a difficult one.
In late May, the teachers union told its members: “After four mediation sessions, the District failed to advance a coherent proposal. The District’s last proposal – as actually written – contradicted the District representation of it. For example, the District wrote it was ‘revising’ counter-proposals (on class size and Special Education Appendix D) and then never provided the promised proposal.”
The district has requested an independent review of its contract offer by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). That could occur in July.