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Hundreds of Orange County teachers strike over pay and benefits cuts

Hundreds of Orange County teachers were walking picket lines Thursday, the first day of a strike protesting pay and benefits cuts in the Capistrano Unified School District.

Schools in the 51,000-student district remained open, but most after-school activities and sports events were canceled.

Scores of substitute teachers were hurriedly brought in to preside over classrooms with lesson plans that included enrichment activities in line with state education standards. But there were reports that some students were leaving campuses because there were too few substitutes.

The Capistrano Unified Teachers Assn., which represents the district’s 2,200 teachers, called the strike after negotiations over wage and benefits cuts broke down. The district last month imposed a 10% pay cut on teachers.

Both sides have agreed to meet in a closed-door session later Thursday to try to end the deadlock.

-- Carla Rivera

Photo: Teacher Kay Serafini is comforted by sixth-grader Nikki Sadriafter after the teacher was seen crying on the picket line at Carl Hankey K-8 School in Mission Viejo. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (109)

Anyone who thinks a teacher only works 9 months a year knows NOTHING about teaching. They spend the whole summer doing trainings and preparations for the new school year. They work just as long and hard in the 3 months off as during session. They also spend their OWN money on supplies. You haters know NOTHING about teachers or teaching. You should be ranting at the bloated and overpaid administrators who are the ones truly ruining education.

Jeff K. - You have swallowed the Union kool-aid. Sure, everyone should just unionize at their current job, scream for higher salaries, better benefits, lifetime employment no matter how imcompetent you might be, and ridiculous pensions until you die. Ask the auto industry how that worked out for them. You talk about third world countries? They are getting all of our manufacturing jobs because Unions drove the jobs out of here with their ridiculous demands. Are you living in the 50's? You think the Republican party played us? The majority of people that I talk to with a head on their shoulders and can think for themselves realize that Unions are ruining this state. Democratic state senators who thought the money would never dry up and spent like there was no tomorrow ruined this state getting in bed with these unions. Wake up man. Look at the facts. If everyone unionized, nothing would get done.

The money is being wasted on 6 figure pension checks to those morons that got us in this mess in the first place i say none of them should make more then 50 grand a year they do nothing but ruin our country ,state and cities .thats where the teachers money has gone to them morons.

Just FIRE the required number of teachers so that the extra money saved can be used to maintain the rest of the teachers' salaries. Ho hum.

Crying on the picket line in front of 12 years olds over a labor dispute is evil. These teachers don't care about the students, only about themselves. This is just wrong.

I just wanted to dispel some myths I see in these comments:

1. Public sector pensions- The average pension for a retired public employee who has 20 years service is between 20,000 and 30,000 a year. (Much less than the 120-250 K claimed by another poster). There are very few pensioners who make that much; they just get all of the press. If you want to cap future pensions, maybe I can support that, but for most people they're reasonable. If we don't offer pensions, you can bet that we're going to need to put the same amount of money into 401Ks and other programs. More people should fight for pensions and we'd all be better off. Many other 1st world countries have good nationalized pensions for the elderly.
2. Private sector's right to strike- Just like these teachers, private sector workers can form union and have the right to strike to protect pay and benefits. If it's something you want, organize.
3. These teachers are striking to stop a 10% pay cut- They are striking because they want to ID the pay cut as temporary. Once the economy recovers, they want to recover what they lost. The district wants it to be permanent.
4. We spend too much on students- California pays significantly less per pupil than any other state.
5. The 2/3 rule- California is one of only 2 states that requires a 2/3 vote in the legislature to pass a budget (Rhode Island is the other). The federal government doesn't require 2/3. Every year, we pass ridiculous legislation or put pork in the budget to get the 2 or 3 extra votes required to get a budget. The Democrats blame the Republicans, the Republicans blame the Democrats. We always get a budget that doesn't reflect our values.

I'm a parent in this district and the comments demonstrate a significant amount of misunderstanding about what is going on down here. It's not about the pay cuts. The teachers agreed to a 10% cut in their salary. The problem is that the board is insisting that the cut stand for three years with no possibility of renegotiation. The other school districts in OC have negotiated contracts which allow for the possibility of renegotiations should things get better or additional monies be "found." Things probably won't get better but for the CUSD trustees to include such languge in the agreement would cost nothing, offer respect and keep the district competitive with the surrounding districts. Also, the contract negotiation is just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of interesting shennanigans going on with the board of trustees in this district. If you heard the full story or spent ten minutes with any of the seven nutcase trustees, you'd fully support the strike.

I am a student at Aliso Niguel and you guys have it all wrong the teachers are not striking over the pay cut they've already agreed to take a pay cut they just want a contract. CUSD is the only district in the state that doesnt have a contract between the board and the union, that is the root of the problem it has nothing to do with money. The board and the union currently are bound through a unilateral imposition, meaning the board can do whatever they want, and they refuse to negotiate with teachers regarding a contract.

It's actually a 13% pay cut but who cares during these tough times... Capistrano Unified School District is one of the highest paid Districts in the State of California!

What exactly are these teachers teaching our kids by going on Strike... And to have them cross a picket line! Cmon now!

In my honest oppinion all these teachers who went on strike should be fired and have them reapply for their jobs! There are tons of teachers out there who would love to have their job!

Down with the Teachers who are on strike! Bring in the fresh and eager teachers who want to be their for our children!

I use to work for CUSD and those teachers should be ashamed of themselves for picketing. Many people across this nation are taking paycuts just to keep their jobs. what makes these teachers think they are so special???? I now teach in the junior colleges and I am appalled at how many students are not ready for college. So what are the teachers really doing in those classrooms. Teachers get a grip!!! I was disgusted driving by CUSD schools and seeing those teachers out there. Good thing I am not working in that district anymore because I would have crossed the lines and would have been with my kids teaching them today. These teachers only care about themselves. They don't care about the teachers that have received pink slips. They don't care about the students that will be in very overcrowded classes. Take the cut like other people in this state have done. Why do you think you are so privledged??? Your union disgusts me.

There are two sides to every story of course. If the district does really have the funds, then negotiations are in order. But if they, like the state of California, are in the red, then the teachers need to bite the bullet and accept the pay cut, counting their blessings every day that they still have their jobs and their benefits. If they're not happy, they can leave and there are hundreds of thousands of people who will be happy to fill their places. Teachers are not indispensible.

....and once again every person on this board is scared to admit the real reason the California school system is horrible...ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION!! school budgets are crumbling. They can't keep up with the demands of millions of kids brought into their front office everyday expecting education due to the wonderful NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT. Overcrowded classrooms, not enough materials, no money for the free lunches. IS EVERYONE SCARED TO BE CALLED A RACIST? Don't punish the teachers, enforce our immigration laws!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Hey our prisons are flodded with illegals....cut the guards pay!! hey out health care system is crumbling paying for free health care for illegals.....tax the rich!........I am so sick of it.

I am a teacher....I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology. I chose to teach because I liked working with children. Where did you graduate? *Silence* I thought so....

From what I have heard, the teachers are striking because the Board imposed a 10% pay cut. Imposed, as in for an indefinite amount of time. This action is too dictatorial, and quite frankly, it is intolerable. Teachers are willing to take the cut, it's just that they want to be able to negotiate every year in response to our country's financial situation. On the other hand, other school districts have a temporary pay cut. Why is the Capistrano Unified School District the only one that's imposing a pay cut? Isn't this going overboard?

-a CUSD student

As a Capistrano Unified School teacher, I need to clarify the above article. It is the legal language that we specifically have a problem with, not the cut itself. The board has called for over a 10 percent PERMANENT cut. The teachers and union are fighting for the legal language to say TEMPORARY in case funds become available in the future. Get your facts right LA Times!!!

Yes, cuts in education are here in California. Jobs are lost. Why isn't anyone talking about what is happening to health insurance? My family's Blue Cross Anthem PPO policy will double next year, from $760 to $1470 a month. A MONTH! That's a house payment. Is this how the Obama plan is helping me, making insurance so expensive I can't afford it? I'm a special education teacher in a small district in the Inland Empire. Our district has been run well with little fat or excess. The consequence of that is we have no fat to cut like other districts, instead we have furlough days and threats from the county to take over. Is there any common sense in our government at all? We are so busy blaiming and putting each other down that we are not looking to the source of the problems.

To all those saying the administrators should take a paycut - They already did last year 10%.

ITS time for the teachers to wake uo to the REAL WORLD.........were in a recession and everyone is affected....BE HAPPY your still employed,with benefits.
IF yo dont like the cuts ........TRY getting another job with the same pay?.....and benefits?

I am so saddened by these comments...we ARE receiving a pay cut...we are NOT whinning about it...what we would like is just fairness...that it state temporary, not permanent...that if the situation gets better, we can go back to at least part of what we had. I am saddened that people take education for granted...you already take it for granted that educators will provide everything, but are not willing to participate fully. You are posting comments based on feelings without even investigating the full story. I have been teaching ten years, and have invested more time and money than I am PAID or will ever be paid...teachers don't go into education for the money...we just ask that we be respected for our occupation. But apparently that is not satisfactory in many eyes...education is disposable, easily disregarded and put to the side....I am saddened by these comments...for those of you who value education, thank you.

The photo is totally staged.

Look how she holds the sign at the perfect angle while wailing away.

Unions are a necessary Evil; since the school boards will not cut from the top down. I agree with Superintendent of Schools, Bill Habermehl, that school districts need to be run locally not federally.

Schools and teachers need to be accountable, but so do the students and their parents/guardians.

Hey LA Rider, what about the prison guard pay and benefits packages? If we taxed the oil companies and stopped spending money on foreign adventures, we could afford to pay teachers decently. So intellectual leaders should be the lowest paid public workers??

It defies logic that working class people are so vehemently anti-union. People died to make union representation possible. Look at what has happened to wages and benefits as union membership has declined. Jobs have left the country and more and more people are being paid slave wages at places like Walmart. "Live better?" Are you living better? And now we turn our anger and frustration against the one group of people than can prepare our kids to truly "live better." A nation that attacks its teacher is not healthy. It is so easy and satisfying to be able to look at someone else and say, "Suck it up!" Do we want to be mindless bottom feeders fighting over the scraps that trickle down from the surface? Because that is what is happening in this frenzy against teachers. We tell our kids to get a degree so that they can enjoy a decent quality of life. How confusing is it then for kids to try to figure out how it is that teachers, despite their degrees, seem to be the one group for whom we make an exception? The argument that the money isn't there is the one that needs to challenged. It is in the defense budget and it is in the tax breaks that do NOTHING to create jobs. These people are right to fight and they ought to have support from anyone who is sick of seeing the rich get richer while the rest of fight for the scraps. The public schools are on the line here folks. IF you think privatizing education is a good idea you might want to look at some nice 3rd world countries where that is the reality.

I love the photo they chose to go with for this article. It's meant to pull at your heart strings. But does it? not really. Why? Because 10% pay cut is not really an off the top pay cut at all. If faced with the prospect of losing my job or taking a pay cut, I choose the lesser of two evils every day and twice on Sunday. I have a solution. Schools should operate like business do, so much money comes in and so much goes out. As in the private sector, if revenues don't cover expenses then cuts have to be made. Of course, you should first start wih reducing inefficiencies, remove waste and lower overhead wherever possible. If revenues don't recover and deeper cuts are needed and labor must be reduced, then that is what must occur. There are no and should be no sacred cows. How about raising copays and deductibles on their lavish benefits plan, or a reduction in the pension plan, or limiting what new entrants can receive from the pension plan alltogether? Over the long term they are not sustainable anyway. Even if we were to miraculously fix our budget woes, we would be back in the same rabbitt hole again. The answer is not raising taxes on anyone, the money will just be wasted. We need to address sustainability. It's not just a buzz word for natural resources or saving the planet. It applies to sound business decisions as well. STOP this entitlement mentality that is now so pervasive in our society. We are falling behind people. Wake up!

Yeah....when all education is privatized, all you teacher haters will be singing a new tune. It'll hurt when you have to write a check to have your children educated. The only ones who will be able to afford their kids educations are the ones who own the non-union companies that you all work for.

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