90 percent of Capistrano teachers on strike

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. Hundreds of teachers and supporters were back on picket lines for a third day. Many did not think they would still be in this position.

"I really didn't think this would go this far," said teacher Kathleen Sigafoos.

Some 2,000 teachers walked off the job on Thursday over a district proposal to impose a permanent 10 percent pay cut to help close its $34 million budget shortfall.

Schools remain open with hundreds of substitute teachers filling in. School attendance increased slightly from last Friday, but still lagged well below average. Student attendance averaged 34 percent - compared to the usual 96 percent - across its 56 schools.

Talks between the Capistrano Unified Education Association (CUEA) and the board of education continued through the weekend without being resolved.

Teachers said they do not oppose the pay cut but want it to be temporary, expiring by June 30, 2011. They also want the district to restore salaries, unpaid workdays and other benefits if new state money comes through.

What was supposed to be a one-day walkout turned into a strike with the breakdown of negotiations over the imposed pay cut. Teachers complained the board has been a roadblock to reaching an agreement, with "shifting parameters and lack of consistent direction."

"Our team has gone as far as we can," said CUEA Bargaining Chair Sally White. "Now it's up to at least four board members to do the right thing for students, teachers and this community and end this strike."

Union officials said they submitted a new proposal to the school board Monday morning, as negotiations continued.

"They have been negotiating throughout the day since Thursday and we are hopeful that a settlement can be reached," said Julie Hatchel, a spokesperson for the Capistrano Unified School District, who would not comment on what may be standing in the way of an agreement.

The strike is the first by educators in Orange County in a decade. Teachers in the Capistrano school district last went on strike in 1974.

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