Sacramento City Unified could extend school year a week to avoid state fine following strike

For students at the Sacramento City Unified School District, the current school year could be one week longer.

The district plans to make June 16 and 17 full days of instruction and add the week of June 20 to the calendar to finish the year, according to the latest proposals from the Sacramento City Teachers Association and the district. The school year, without the addition, would’ve ended on June 16which stands as a minimum day.

The proposals also suggest extending the remaining Thursdays by an hour. In the district, Thursdays are a shorter day than the rest of the school week.

Their suggestions are aimed at recovering the 2,400 instructional minutes students lost in late March and early April due to a district employee strike that lasted eight days. By California lawthe lost time — if not made up — could result in the district paying a $47 million fine to the state.

To mitigate that and recover student learning, the district and teachers union have been exchanging proposals since April 20, with the latest counter-proposal from the union coming May 4. The district sent out a press release with its own proposal on May 6.

“To date, we have been unable to reach an agreement that will ensure enough SCTA unit members will be present on added days to keep our schools sufficiently staffed,” SCUSD Chief Communications Officer Brian Heap said in an email statement. “We cannot extend the school year unless we can provide a meaningful and safe experience for students.”

But SCTA president David Fisher said the district had not responded to the union’s bargaining team since May 4. When the district put forth a proposal on May 4, he said the union’s bargaining team responded with a counter proposal during the same discussion.

That proposal, Fisher added, said that the district wouldn’t accept responsibility if it made mistakes on any US tax deductions reporting to CalSTRS, which handles retirement for SCTA members.

“Unit members assume sole liability for all state, federal and employment tax consequences and all retirement consequences flowing from this Agreement,” the district’s latest proposal reads

“That means if they make a mistake in your pension, too bad,” Fisher said. “Your fault or not your fault, you have to continue to have an incorrect pension for the rest of your life.”

The union’s bargaining team also proposed a survey of SCTA members and district parents to determine how well-attended the make-up days would be to further help with understanding staffing needs.

According to both union leaders and the district, the discussions so far have focused only on the district and SCTA, and exclude SEIU Local 1021. The other union, which went on strike alongside SCTA for the first time in its history, represents janitors, instructional aides and other district staff without teaching credentials.

“As a union, we want to partner with the district, school board, teachers and parents to find the best solutions, since we all have a common interest: Educating Sac City children and looking out for their well-being,” said SEIU Local 1021 spokesperson Jennie Smith-Camejo.

She added that the district had proposed some bargaining dates but added that she didn’t have confirmation about a specific date the union would meet at the table. The union’s president, Karla Faucett, told CapRadio SEIU Local 1021 had requested meetings with the district as early as April 20.

“The district’s staff continues to analyze how extending the work year could impact all of our employees,” said SCUSD’s Heap in an email statement, adding that the district began its conversations with SCTA first to prioritize recovering lost instructional time.

“To make up this instructional time it is critical that we have sufficient staff available to safely open our schools for learning on those added days,” Heap wrote. “In order to ensure sufficient staffing, we will be working with all of our labor partners to discuss any extension to the work year and/or day.”

In its May 6 press releasethe district additionally expressed concern around the impact on employee salaries and retirement if no deal was struck.

The eight-day strike also could result in a financial hit for the district. At analysis from the Sacramento County Office of Education presented at the April 21 board meeting places the district back into a “negative” qualification per the California Department of Education, provided it doesn’t make up the time. The designation indicates the district will not meet its financial obligations for the subsequent fiscal year.

While instructional time compliance is reviewed by an independent auditor who must file a report by December, a spokesperson from the CDE said the auditor reviews the year between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022.

As a result, districts seeking to avoid the financial penalty from lost instructional time must add time back to the school year before July 1.

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