SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Spending time with her daughter is one of the things that brings Cassandra Perez St. Antoine joy. The other is her job as a teacher at West Ranch High school in the Santa Clarita Valley. But it's becoming increasingly hard to support her family on her salary.
Teachers within the William S. Hart Union High School District have received a 1% pay raise since 2015, which increased salaries to between $500 and $1,000 a year depending on the teacher's salary level.
"The cost of things is getting higher. My child's preschool is getting higher. The cost of grocery items are getting higher every year," she said.
The lack of a pay raise is why teachers protested outside the Hart Union School District board meeting on June 9. It's also why Perez St. Antoine said some teachers are choosing to move to other districts.
"I've had a lot of personal friends this year; several have moved to Orange County, several are moving to Ventura, in that area, because they have found more lucrative positions in other districts."
John Minkus is the president of the Hart District Teachers Association. He was a teacher for about 30 years and said teachers within the Hart District earn about $10,000 below the state average per year.
"The priority has to be on your assets, and your assets are your employees, and so we need them to refocus on that principle," he said.
But school board member Joe Messina said the district can't spend more than what they have.
"We are negotiating in earnest. We want to make sure teachers get taken care of, as in any negotiation with any group, there's always disagreements where people don't see things exactly the same way. But we care about our teachers. We do value what our teachers do with our kids," he said.
As for Perez St. Antoine, like most teachers, she didn't stop working when the school year finished. She's already working on lesson plans for her AP environmental science class.
"It never stops," she said. "We are doing a road trip up to Washington this year and some of the places that we're hitting; I'm already gonna get information to be able to bring that into the classroom."