OC Teachers Protest Salary Cuts

Capistrano Unified School District educators took to the picket lines Thursday to protest a 10.1 percent salary cut imposed to reduce a budget deficit.

Officials with the Capistrano Unified Education Association, which represents the district's 2,200 teachers, recently said they will accept the pay cuts, but only if they expire June 30, 2011. School board members last month cut off negotiations and unilaterally implemented the salary reductions.

The most recent reduction of teachers' salaries and benefits will save the district about $19.9 million, but the district still needs to close a $34 million budget gap.

School board President Anna Bryson pointed out last week that school administrators took a 10 percent pay cut last year, but because that affects only about 150 people, district leaders needed to find savings from teachers' salaries.

Reduced revenue from the state and poor financial planning left the school board with little choice, Bryson said. 

Union leaders asked to meet with school board members at 10 a.m., but the school officials said they were not available until 2 p.m., so they will meet then, according to the union.

District officials said they welcome new talks with union leaders, but not if they're going to insist on preconditions, spokeswoman Julie Hatchel said.

"Sometimes you have to draw a line, and for the 2,200 members of the Capistrano Unified Education Association, it's a picket line," said Vicki Soderberg, president of the Capistrano Unified Education Association.

Union leaders also want assurances that if the district finds an unexpected windfall of money, it will restore salaries to their previous level, Soderberg said.

Some parents reportedly kept their children home from school today to support the teachers.

Union officials reported that Aliso Niguel High School teachers said that some students who came to school today went home because regular classes weren't being held. Some students took photos with their cell phones showing large groups of students sitting in the bleachers in the school's gym, according to the union.

District officials were using substitute teachers and combining some classes to keep the schools open.

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