SCUSD has struggled financially in recent years

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – At the heart of the Sacramento City Unified School District strike is a showdown between the district and school employees over wages, benefits and positions the district can afford. provide.

The issues on the surface may be different, but the root of the labor dispute between SCUSD employees, including teachers, aides, bus drivers, guards, other classified workers, and the school district, is essentially the even as it has been for years.

The disagreement is about what the district can afford to give its workers.

By early 2019, the problems facing SCUSD were dire, including a huge budget shortfall and the threat of California taking control of the district if the problem was not resolved.

“The reality is we need to make $35 million cuts to balance the budget and save our schools,” SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said in 2019. “We need to do everything in our power to save our schools. schools from state takeover would harm our students today and for decades to come.

Cuts have been made, state-mandated advisers have been hired, however, in September 2020, a sea change has occurred.

The COVID-19 crisis collided with the budget crisis and the district went from a projected budget deficit of $12 million to a surplus of $23 million.

“We were forced to close schools because of COVID-19 of course. And that’s the result in some of these expense categories,” SCUSD Chief Commercial Officer Rose Ramos explained in September 2020.

Money was saved on utilities, transportation and unfilled vacancies, and millions in federal and state COVID-19 relief funds for schools stabilized the district.

But as the school board said last week as the strike loomed, they are reluctant to commit one-time funds for ongoing costs such as salary increases and new hires.

“Last year, we established an advisory fund on the responsible use of one-time funds,” said Christina Pritchett, chair of the SCUSD Board of Education. “The contracts we negotiate with our labor partners need to take that into account, the fact that we face constant oversight from the Sacramento County Office of Education, among others.”

A letter from the county’s office of education mirrors that oversight, with the county superintendent essentially saying the district still has a structural deficit.

But for people on the picket lines, the structural deficit means something different: not enough people in the classroom, the lunchroom, the maintenance room to provide healthy, safe and effective learning environments. to students and staff.

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