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Dixon teachers demand better salaries, saying both staff and students are suffering

Dixon school board meeting met with teachers demanding better salaries
Dixon school board meeting met with teachers demanding better salaries 02:13

DIXON -- Teachers and staff members packed Thursday night's Dixon Unified School Board meeting to fight for better salaries.

They chanted and picketed outside the meeting and dozens filled the room speaking in public comment at the podium.

"We're tired of losing really qualified, amazing teachers to surrounding districts, for one reason. We are the lowest paid district in the surrounding area," Sheila Herd, district teacher of the year, told CBS13.

The educators, represented by two unions in the Dixon Teacher's Association and the SEIU Local 1021 chapter, rallied in solidarity. They say the district's proposed 5% raise is better than nothing but still not enough to pay their bills.

"My wife is also a teacher here. Working in the same district, both being underpaid, both of us have to work multiple jobs," said Andrew Rathjen, paraeducator and SEIU 1021 president. "During the summer, I'm going to have four different jobs just to try to make it by."

Rathjen said that when educators are putting their groceries on credit cards and could make more money working at McDonald's, something has to change.

"We just gave the superintendent a 25% raise. It's hard to swallow when they're making over $200,000 and my coworkers are making $16.22 an hour," Rathjen said. "The students aren't getting the full aspect of the education they need, which is a huge tragedy."

The district, right now, has more than 30 teacher openings, an unacceptable number to teachers rallying Thursday, with only around 140 teacher positions total in the district.

They are worried that if salaries do not improve, the problem will only get worse.

"This is a nationwide issue. There is a shortage in teachers and a shortage in funding," Julian Cuevas, school board president, said to the crowd at Thursday's meeting.

Cuevas addressed the concerned audience before the school board members went into a closed session to discuss the proposal further.

"I promise you there isn't a single board member up here that doesn't believe that you all deserve more," Cuevas said.

Cuevas admitted that these current salaries don't cut it, adding he is also frustrated with the situation they are in -- but says the district has already dipped into school programming money to fund the proposed 5% raise.

"We have literally provided what we can at this moment based on what our current budget is," Cuevas said. "Any further funds provided will cut further into programs. That is literally where we are at—5% on the table cuts $500,000 into programming over the next three years."

Educators argue that if that is the case, then revise the budget and find a way to better fund staff members.

They added that it's not only teachers and staff but the students who are suffering. They say the teacher vacancies have left many learning from substitute teachers or under-qualified educators.

"My son started his eighth-grade year out, 15 days he sat in a gym because we did not have a credentialed social science teacher. That was the entire eighth-grade class," said Julie Galindo, district parent and paraeducator. "No learning at all."

The school board committed Thursday to come back to the table with the unions, but no action was taken on the proposed salary increases.

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