“We’re worth more”: VUEA educators rally for livable wages and district support


Luigirey Guce

Ventura Unified educators stand on the corner of Victoria Ave. and Telephone Rd. holding a poster that reads, “Stand Up for Me.”

Noelle Villaseñor, Assignment Editor

On Oct. 12, 2022, illuminated by golden hour sunlight in front of the Ventura County Government Center, Ventura Unified Education Association (VUEA) teachers, staff and families rallied in protest of the three percent pay raise proposed by the Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified).

After receiving over a 13 percent increase in ongoing funding from the state of California, Ventura Unified proposed “first a one percent and now a three percent offer,” for educator salary increases and compensation, VUEA Vice President and Pacific High School (Pacific) teacher Sebastien Declerck explained. 

“We really feel like there’s a portion of the budget there that really belongs to teachers,” Declerck continued, “and we feel like the district is not being upfront in […] why they’re not giving us that portion of the budget […] for teacher compensation.”

Hand-drawn signs and banners bore messages of “Pay educators a livable wage” and “Where’s the money?” Elaborating on the latter, “We want to know where that 13 percent is,” Pacific teacher Beth Borer said.

Borer hopes that the protest encourages Ventura Unified to “open up their books […] and show the people of the City of Ventura where the money has been going, because we have not been getting raises for years.”

Be accountable to the citizens of Ventura. Where is this money going?

— Beth Borer

The City of Ventura is one of the most expensive places to live in the state of California. With minimal salary increases that have not kept up with the cost of living, Ventura Unified teachers have been open about the difficulties of supporting themselves and their families. Declerck noted that many teachers “have moved on” from trying to acquire jobs in Ventura. “They’ve gone to Oxnard Unified, where they can get $20,000 more a year,” he explained. 

Borer, who grew up in Ventura, is currently commuting to Pacific from Santa Paula as a result of the heightened cost of living in her hometown. Many Ventura Unified teachers share similar stories—including Declerck, who works a second job teaching nighttime classes at Ventura College

We’re losing a lot of really talented, really good, really qualified teachers.

— Sebastien Declerck

“Increase the teachers’ salary so that we can afford to live in Ventura,” Borer asked of Ventura Unified, “so that those of us who have been forced out of town can come back home.”

As the evening moved along, cars honked, engines revved and supportive onlookers waved from their vans at the sea of red shirts, holding more signs that urged “Stand Up For Kids” at the intersection of Victoria Ave. and Telephone Rd. The communal solidarity was palpable in the crisp autumn air—despite their frustrations, smiles adorned the faces of every excited and laughing participant.

“We want to have the best compensated staff and the best compensated teachers in the county. With that comes the best schools,” Declerck concluded. 

The protest’s energy did everything but die down throughout its two-hour run. People of all ages, from babies to the elderly, jostled about as teachers, custodians, para educators, counselors, and other school personnel alike shared their dreams for increased wages and contractual protections for their salaries to cover the cost of living. Meanwhile, a band of whistles, thumps of drums and claps of tambourines spiritedly displayed their encouragement in the background.

The day ended with positive attitudes and an aura of togetherness that battled the setting sun. Though salary increases and clarity about the education budget from Ventura Unified have not yet been accomplished, participants at the rally left hopeful that answers will be provided soon.

What do you think?