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By Gabriella Landeros

Members of the United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) have voted overwhelmingly by 97.3 percent to authorize a strike in case West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) officials fail to do the right thing for students. Educators believe that every student deserves a permanent, high-quality certificated educator, an emotionally and physically safe learning environment, community schools and shared decision-making that uplifts communities.

More than 3,000 WCCUSD students started this school year without a certificated classroom teacher. Students deserve consistency to help them thrive in the classroom, and having a permanent credentialed educator is the key to that. Students, families and educators are the heart and soul of schools, and the budget should prioritize that. One way to prioritize is through the development of community schools. They are the heart of the community and UTR is striving for WCCUSD to be the first district in California, and possibly the country, where this is embedded as part of the collective bargaining agreement. A community school is the heart of a community, uniting diverse and engaged stakeholders to make the school community stronger and support the whole child through academics and a learning environment that helps make them feel safe, valued, engaged, challenged and healthy.

“We don’t want to strike, but we will if it means doing what is best for our students. Over 90 percent of all union members who participated in the strike authorization vote are ready to meet this crisis, and we will do everything in our power to ensure the WCCUSD puts students first.”

–UTR President John Zabala

UTR President John Zabala (left) and Organizing Committee Co-Chairs Gabrielle Micheletti and Jesus Galindo (right).

In mid-November of last year, the Legislative Analyst Office of California announced additional guaranteed, ongoing funding for the 2023-2024 school year. The district intends to only provide less than half of the percentage of ongoing permanent funding it receives from the state for educator compensation. Despite that projection of continued funding by the state, WCCUSD declared an impasse in negotiations with UTR. Educators across the district have weathered crisis after crisis: from budget cuts due to poor financial management to building new virtual learning systems during the pandemic or giving up countless prep or non-contractual hours to ensure students are with a credentialed adult every day. As UTR is going through the fact-finding process with the district, one thing is for certain: educators know that students deserve the best and are willing and prepared to strike if the district fails to believe the same.

At least 700 educators, families and students came to a rally before the last school board meeting on Jan. 25. In an amazing display of solidarity, the community is undoubtedly behind UTR.

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