Tensions between the Dublin Unified School District and the Dublin Teachers Association flared on Tuesday afternoon, when more than 500 union supporters calling for smaller classes, counseling and support services, and medical benefits marched from Dublin High School to the district offices.
While police blocked the roads from traffic, the DTA supporters marched down Village Parkway, a sea of signs and green clothing. One leader called to the crowd, who chanted a response in unison.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
“Will you strike?
“Yes, we will!”
A week before the rally, DUSD offered teachers an ongoing salary increase of 4%, a one-time bonus of 1%, and a 0.5% raise for those longest-serving, according to a statement issued by Boozer. However, the offer still fell short of the 4.5% ongoing raise and 3.5% one-time bonus the union requested, and did not address the demands for class size caps, a consistent bell schedule, and new classroom safety measures.
It’s the latest in a series of ongoing contract negotiations which began around 11 months ago.
Before the march, DTA president Roberta Kreitz addressed the crowd of green-clad onlookers by microphone with a recap on the latest negotiations, followed by a speech by California Teachers Association vice president Theresa Montaño, who flew in from Southern California to attend.
“The CTA is with you today, and if you go on strike, the CTA will be with you then,” she told the crowd.
In February, the union declared an impasse. About a month later, 98% of the 620 union members voted in favor of a strike if a compromise isn’t reached soon. Both parties have now been certified for fact-finding, which involves employing a third-party to independently analyze the facts of the case and present a potential compromise.
“The district fully supports the right of our teachers to make their voices heard, and we welcome any opportunity for respectful dialogue,” Chip Dehnert, DUSD public information officer, said of the negotiations in an email. “Our goal is to reach an equitable agreement that both compensates our teachers and protects the fiscal health of our schools.”
The rally, which was organized by Kreitz, ended just before the regular DUSD board meeting, at which DUSD Superintendent Leslie Boozer’s abrupt departure was announced in what was called a mutually agreed upon separation between Boozer and the school board. Some rally-goers cheered and clapped both inside and outside the district office when Board President Amy Miller broke the news.
“We know that the students deserve the best, and the lack of direction, leadership and accountability in Dublin is negatively impacting their best interests,” Kreitz said at the board meeting Tuesday evening. “For that, we will continue to march together, we will continue to stand together...and if we have to, we will strike together.”
If a strike does occur, it wouldn’t be a course of action unique to Dublin alone. According to Montaño, what’s happening in Dublin is indicative of a statewide phenomenon, with San Ramon Valley and Sacramento teachers recently voting to authorize strikes (though San Ramon Valley settled before striking), and Los Angeles and Oakland educators ending their own.
While California has the fifth-largest economy in the world, it ranks 41st in the nation for per-pupil education funding, at $10,291, according to a 2015-16 California Budget & Policy Center report. The national average is $12,252.
“I think if you look at why teachers go on strike nowadays, it’s not just about their rights,” said Montaño. “It’s about student rights, and you’re gonna see a lot more of this.”
According to Dehnert, DUSD members regularly visit Sacramento to encourage legislators to support “Full and Fair Funding of Public Schools,” an initiative that aims to raise school funding to the national average by 2020. They are slated to attend a Rally for Public Education at the Capitol Building in Sacramento this Wednesday, which will urge legislators to prioritize spending on public schools.