District, teachers’ dispute over contract details may cause unwanted backlash for students

A war has been brewing since April 22, when the Stockton Teachers Association and the Stockton Unified School District began to formally renegotiate teacher contracts. Math Department Chair Andrew Walter points out that “like a cold war, people are fighting for ground but no one is making any headway.”

This issue has affected everyone in the district one way or another.

Advanced Placement student Alyssa Martinez, a senior, is concerned with the uncertainty of a possible strike. “Without instruction, a strike would affect us negatively,” she said. She adds that without instructional time, “we would be missing out on the opportunity to prepare for these AP tests.”

Martinez hopes STA and SUSD reaches a settlement before “it affects our future.”

“The district doesn’t know what happens in the classroom and we need them to know how the teachers feel.”

Some teachers have felt the uncertainty of a strike take hold of their work and personal lives. One is music director Joseph Updegraff.

“Every day I was waking up and wondering what was going to happen,” Updegraff said. “Why should I teach something new if we are just going to go on strike?”

He went on to explain that “at this point, I don’t care if the strike happens or not. I’m going to teach the way I’m supposed to teach. I’m going to schedule tests and quizzes. If we go on strike, we go on strike.”

And he is not alone.

Ninety-seven percent of teachers who attended a strike vote on Sept. 8 have agreed to strike if STA and SUSD are unable to settle. Teachers have been encouraged to picket 30 minutes before and after school to spread awareness of the current successful deliberations between the district and the union.

STA and SUSD have been debating several articles in their contract. These articles cover everything from teaching hours to wages and benefits. One article that was brought up by the district would have allowed the transfer of teachers at will, which caused major uproar. The amendment to the article would have allowed the district to transfer teachers to different schools without their consent.

This was one of the main proposals that teachers like Updegraff severely opposed. But now, after withdrawing the proposal, the district drew up a new “generous offer” as stated on their website.

The offer would give teachers a 6 percent pay increase retroactive to last school year as well as consecutive 2 percent wage increases for the 16-17 and 17-18 school years. Yet the district would cap health insurance to $1,350 a month.

“We wouldn’t be getting any kind of raise,” Updegraff said. “That money would go off to paying our health care.”

The district also came under fire after proposing to pay substitute teachers $350 a day.

“By them offering more money than what’s in our contract, they are technically breaking the law,” Walter said. “Because they are offering subs more money than they are legally allowed to do.”

Yet despite the legal disputes both sides agree that no one wants a strike.

So far, teachers have done demonstrations and rallying. Most notably, on Sept. 27 around 100 teachers showed up to a monthly board meeting to show comradery and support for their co-workers.

At the meeting, a speaker pointed out that students would be severely affected if there were a strike. She pointed out the worksheets some students would be given. “These do not pertain to anything in the curriculum,” she said as she held a sheet to the board with the outline of popcorn.

Martinez is concerned about a possible strike and encourages that “everyone needs to get their voices heard or then we become forgotten. … We are the ones who are ultimately affected by this.”