Angered by budget cuts proposed by the San Francisco Unified School District, the teachers union is one step closer to striking after 97 percent of the nearly 2,000 teachers who showed up to a general membership meeting Thursday cast ballots in favor of calling a vote to strike.
“We’ve never had a strike vote with that many people voting and that high a percentage,” said Matthew Hardy, a spokesman for the union. Turnout was about 32 percent of the union’s membership.
School district officials declared an impasse in contract negotiations two weeks ago, and California’s Public Employment Relations Board last week granted the district’s request to send a mediator to oversee bargaining. The SFUSD has asked United Educators of San Francisco to meet with the mediator as early as Tuesday.
The SFUSD, which has been battered by state budget cuts in recent years, is asking teachers to agree to spending cuts, including as many as nine furlough days next year should Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative fail to pass in November. That has been a point of contention with the union, as has a proposal to gradually increase class sizes for the early grades beginning in 2013.
The district also hopes to revamp its special education and early childhood programs, but teachers say they have concerns about how that might affect their jobs. And the union has requested a 2 percent across-the-board raise.
The current contract expires June 30. The last teacher strike in San Francisco was in 1979 and lasted six weeks.