Schools Need To Make Up Missed Days From Teacher Strike Or Face Penalty

While one city's teacher strikes may be over, the district faces state penalties if they can't make up missed school days.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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teacher strikes

It’s been a significant school year for teacher strikes across America. COVID feuds, teacher burnout, and pay wars escalated to over a dozen strikes throughout the U.S. One of those, the recent union strike in Sacramento, California, left children out of classrooms for eight school days. An agreement has been met, and staff and students were back in school this Monday. But as the end of the year looms, officials are scrambling to come up with a way to make up those missed days to avoid harsh penalties from the state.

As schools reopened this Monday within the Sacramento City Unified School District, teachers and school staff reached a tentative agreement that would increase workers’ pay, and dole out a one-time stipend. But as the school day returns to normalcy, and the feuds are over, for now–the teacher strike left one big caveat on the table. By law, the school district must provide at least 180 days of school. If they fail to meet this requirement, they face hefty financial penalties that could rack up millions of dollars. 

The Sacramento District had a 181-day calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. Because of the teacher strike, the school now has to come up with seven more days of instructional time. Oftentimes, districts will resort to using professional development days to make up lost time from teacher strikes. However, Sacramento only has one more day of professional development left on the schedule, and that date, unfortunately, falls on June 17th, or one day after the end of the current school year. 

teachers strike

Another option the district could consider is to extend their school year past the scheduled last day on June 16th. Another option is to extend school days to make up lost hours. Otherwise, they can apply for a waiver from the California Department of Education. Since teacher strikes generally don’t meet states conditions for waivers, it is unlikely the Department of Education would approve such a plea. 

According to reports from The Sacramento Bee, the district is mulling over the consequences if they are unable to make up the missed days. It appears the dollar cost for such a penalty might be hefty for the district, as the state doubles the penalty after the fifth day of a strike. Since the teacher strike lasted eight school days, three of those days would be price-tagged at a double amount. On the other hand, since school districts do not pay striking employees, the money accumulated in savings over those eight days could go toward paying the penalty. However, the district also shelled out more money to teachers and staff to end the strike.

teacher strikes

As agreements were made at the end of the teacher strike, the staff made out with more payouts. Teachers and other staff were promised an ongoing 4% salary increase, a 3% one-time stipend for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, a one-time payment of $1,250 for the current school year, and a hefty 25% rate increase for substitutes who filled in for absent teachers this year. Furthermore, the deal landed staffers with a new, fully funded health care package through Kaiser

With only a little over two months two come up with a plan to make up lost days from the teacher strike, it seems that yet again the union and districts are unwilling to negotiate. Union officials noted that negotiations on how to handle the matter have stalled. And if things go similarly to how the strike went, the Sacramento Unified School District just might find itself dishing out money yet again.