Yuba City strike magnified tension over funding formula
Yuba City Teachers Association President Dina Luetgens speaks outside of Yuba City High following the vote Monday in which 97 percent of teachers approved the contract.
A tense, closely watched seven-day teachers strike at Yuba City Unified that ended this week was, at its core, a dispute over interpreting the Local Control Funding Formula, the state’s 3-year-old school funding law.
Yuba City teachers argued that extra money the formula provides districts for low-income kids, foster youth and English learners should go to fund across-the-board raises to help retain teachers. The school board said not unless these “high-needs students” also got something tangible in return, as the funding law intends.
Yuba City teachers were the first to walk out over the issue, but Stockton Unified, whose teachers authorized a strike without setting a date, could be next. Teachers there say that funding formula dollars should go to an across-the-board raise since nearly all students in the district qualify as high-needs. Negotiations deadlocked over the board’s proposal for a 6.5 percent raise in exchange for more instructional time.
The same fight over what’s permissible under the funding law is playing out less visibly in contract negotiations and settlements throughout the state.
In Yuba City, a district with 13,000 students on Route 99 midway between Chico and Sacramento, the board held firm to its basic position, but also compromised after negotiations that ended at 5 a.m. Monday. Teachers got a 3-year, 11.1 percent raise, less than they wanted but more than the board had initially offered. About half of that increase is coming from funding targeted for high-needs students and will require that teachers do additional work: spend time collaborating with each other within the existing school week and attend three professional development days — two this year and one next year.
Teachers, smarting over a loss of seven days pay from the walkout but anxious to return to the classroom, voted Monday 506-15 to approve the contract. The school board unanimously approved it Wednesday.
“We brought teachers the best deal we could, for now, with the current school board, with the district office and board prepared to keep unqualified subs in the classroom,” sleep-deprived Yuba City Teachers Association President Dina Luetgens said Monday after the vote. A 26-year chemistry teacher at Yuba City High School, she said, “It was important to stand up for the future of our schools so that more great teachers don’t leave the district” for nearby districts for more pay.
Superintendent Nancy Aaberg said that the teachers strike, the first in the region, “was completely not necessary.” But the district is satisfied it was able to give a substantial raise while keeping the focus on the funding law’s intent — improving the education of underperforming students. Aaberg, who had Yuba City strike magnified tension over funding formula | EdSource:
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