Spend the money on National City schools

May 31, 2018

Benjamin Knob reports on a rally of teachers in San Diego County and what they are fighting for as they prepare for a potential strike.

MORE THAN 200 teachers, parents and students rallied on May 23 in support of a planned strike by teachers of the National City Elementary Teachers Association in San Diego County.

The rally followed a vote on May 21 authorizing a strike after a long and repetitive bargaining process in which the district has so far refused to offer teachers any on-schedule permanent pay raise. District officials have been refusing this even as they sit on $14.8 million in reserves, an amount five times higher than they’re legally required to keep.

The media has made misleading claims about the district’s offer, including that teachers were offered a 5 percent pay raise. However, this “raise” came attached to a 5 percent increase in work hours — meaning it would not be a raise but an increase in workload.

“What they’re actually offering is a 0 percent raise,” said teacher Nathan Bland. Indeed, many teachers at the rally stated that they felt misrepresented by such claims on the part of NBC and Fox.

Teachers in National City are fighting for fair pay and better-funded schools
Teachers in National City are fighting for fair pay and better-funded schools (National City Elementary Teachers Association)

Meanwhile, teacher pay in National City is lower than other districts in San Diego County, and the district is facing problems with insufficient teaching resources in the classroom.

Many elementary school teachers are using reading textbooks that are 15 years old. In addition, they are provided with no English Language Arts curriculum and are required to work several hours over contract time to find their own materials and create common core lessons on their own.

“It’s very difficult to create your own curriculum,” said Tamlyn McKean, a second-grade teacher at Palmer Way, “We are madly trying to find materials, create materials, and that puts a lot of extra time on us. It becomes overwhelming.”

IN SEVERAL “red” states, including West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, decades of attacks by state legislatures on school funding, pay and pensions led to rebellions by teachers. Tens of thousands participated in strikes, walkouts, walk-ins, picket lines and marches.

The grievances of National City teachers, including outdated textbooks, a lack of resources in the classroom, low pay and a lack of respect, echo those of teachers around the country. In this case, though, the National City strike vote was taken with the support of the executive board of the union.

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According to National City teacher Jonathan Isaacs, members of the community can support teachers by coming out to rallies and helping teachers communicate with parents to get the word out about the issues at stake. Isaacs said:

The most important demand is to get the materials and supplies in the classroom for the students so we can teach them effectively. We are fighting to be respected by the district. We are fighting for them to negotiate in good faith. We are fighting to have the curriculum and the materials in the classroom for the students.

No date for the strike has been set, though it may begin any time after June 30, when the contract expires — including at the start of the school year next fall.

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