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Hundreds of teachers rally for raises, more student resources

By Ashley Sharp

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    SACRAMENTO, California (KOVR) — Raising signs, banners and their voices, hundreds of people rallied outside the Twin Rivers United School District office Tuesday to call for better pay and more support for their students.

The group, made up of teachers, parents, and allies, took over the block ahead of the scheduled school board meeting.

The efforts are led by the Twin Rivers United Educators, also called TRUE, a teacher’s union seeking an agreement with the district to approve raises and better benefits.

TRUE leaders say the public outcry comes as the district has more than $250 million in federal pandemic relief money to spend, as well as other “unprecedented” recurring funding from the state.

They say teachers know firsthand where that money will have the strongest impact.

“It’s not just about salaries and benefits, it’s about what is needed for education,” said Azeta Towfighi, a teacher at Vista Nueva High School.

Poor pay and little support have led many educators to walk away from a profession they love, according to the president of TRUE, Rebecca LeDoux, who is also a middle school teacher.

“Our district has spent years disinvesting in educators in Twin Rivers. They’ve spent less and less incoming revenues on teacher salaries and benefits. That’s led to a staffing crisis and it’s time to rectify that,” said LeDoux. “Our students should be able to count on having teachers in the classroom when they come to school.”

The teacher’s union says coming out of the pandemic, students are struggling and help is needed.

“The more that we can have as far as counseling teams and more support for our students, the better,” said Cristina Luat, a school counselor at Foothill High School.

LeDoux says if students are coming to school with mental health issues and the effects of trauma, they are not going to perform well at school.

“There are academic gaps and we are asking for smaller class sizes as well as intervention specialists to help them bridge that gap,” said LeDoux.

“Smarter Balanced” numbers released Monday by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress reveal that within the Twin Rivers Unified district for 2021-2022, around 80 percent of students do not meet standard in mathematics. Nearly 70 percent do not meet standard in English language arts. Students in Twin Rivers are performing worse than the state average.

Demonstrators took their message from the streets to the boardroom Tuesday. It was standing room only as educators gathered, even standing outside the boardroom, hoping if the school board doesn’t hear their message, they will see it.

Superintendent Steven Martinez updated the board at Tuesday’s meeting about contract negotiations with TRUE.

In a statement to CBS13 district leaders said in full:

“We value and appreciate the work of all Twin Rivers Unified employees, reflected in our good faith commitment to bargaining and the district’s generous proposals to our labor associations. We have reached a tentative agreement with California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 1717, which includes an 18% raise over three years. The district’s Oct. 24, 2022 proposal to Twin Rivers United Educators (TRUE), also includes a potential 18% salary and benefits package over the next three years (10% in year one, 5% in year two, and 3% in year three). As bargaining sessions continue with TRUE, we remain committed to reaching a fair and equitable agreement, keeping in mind the overall impact to the academic and social emotional needs of our students, retention of current employees and recruitment of new employees.”

Teachers say relief needs to come fast.

“It’s time to come to the table and actually give us what we need and our students what they need,” said Towfighi.

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