Oak­land teach­ers poised to strike

Bar­ring last-minute ac­cord, dis­trict of­fi­cials warn par­ents not to ex­pect ‘school as usual’

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Ali Ta­dayon ata­[email protected]­yare­anews­group.com For the lat­est news on the strike, please go to www. east­bay­times. com.

OAK­LAND >> Af­ter pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions that ended Wed­nes­day with union of­fi­cials re­ject­ing a last-minute pay raise of­fer, Oak­land’s pub­lic school teach­ers were poised to strike to­day for the third time in 23 years.

Through that ac­tion, the Oak­land Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion will be­come the lat­est union to ride a na­tion­wide wave in the bat­tle for higher teacher pay. The week­long teach­ers strike in Los An­ge­les that ended last month brought the is­sue into the na­tional spot­light, prompt­ing gov­ern­ment lead­ers to take a hard look at how ed­u­ca­tion is funded and gov­erned. Teach­ers also went on strike in Den­ver for three days ear­lier this month.

Oak­land Uni­fied’s last strike took place in 2010 and lasted a day. The pre­vi­ous one, in 1996, went on for 26 days.

School prin­ci­pals this week have been warn­ing par­ents about what to ex­pect dur­ing the strike: con­sol­i­dated classes, sus­pended sports pro­grams ex­cept for teams in the play­offs, and other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar dis­rup­tions.

One thing par­ents shouldn’t ex­pect, dis­trict of­fi­cials said, is “school as usual.”

The Oak­land Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and the dis­trict have been skir­mish­ing over a teach­ers con­tract since the last one ex­pired about two years ago, with salaries be­ing the main stake in what a state-ap­pointed ar­bi­tra­tor has de­scribed as a “teacher re­ten­tion cri­sis.”

The union con­tends that all of the dis­trict’s of­fers to date don’t leave teach­ers with enough money to keep pace with the Bay Area’s soar­ing hous­ing costs. The av­er­age an­nual salary for Oak­land teach­ers was $63,149 dur­ing the 2017-18 school year, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the state’s De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. Salaries range from $46,570 to $83,724.

Be­fore talks broke off Wed­nes­day, Oak­land Uni­fied of­fered an across-the­board raise of about 8.5 per­cent over four years, ac­cord­ing to union of­fi­cials. That’s up from the dis­trict’s orig­i­nal of­fer of 5 per­cent over three years but far short of the union’s de­mand of 12 per­cent over three years.

The union — which rep­re­sents nurses, coun­selors, psy­chol­o­gists and other fac­ulty mem­bers as well as teach­ers — wants smaller class sizes and the hir­ing of ad­di­tional coun­selors and nurses.

“It isn’t a great in­crease, it isn’t a great raise, it’s just stretch­ing things out, and it does not ad­dress the high cost of liv­ing that’s driv­ing ed­u­ca­tors out of Oak­land,” Oak­land Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Keith Brown said at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

Dis­trict spokesman John Sasaki would not say

whether the dis­trict upped its of­fer ahead of the strike but did con­firm that both par­ties met again at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble Wed­nes­day morn­ing fol­low­ing the re­lease of an in­de­pen­dent fact-find­ing re­port.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the dis­trict can’t af­ford the union’s de­mand for a 12 per­cent raise across three years, not when it faces a bud­get short­fall es­ti­mated to reach $56.6 mil­lion by the 2020-21 school year. The deficit stems in part from a sharp de­cline in stu­dent en­roll­ment over the past 15 years, from 54,000 to 37,000, and the dis­trict’s fail­ure to bud­get ac­cord­ingly. Union of­fi­cials and other crit­ics say that’s a re­sult of the dis­trict’s fis­cal mis­man­age­ment.

The re­port also shed light on the state’s “com­pli­cated and flawed” ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing sys­tem and how it leaves dis­tricts such as Oak­land’s in ar­rears. On Wed­nes­day, dozens of Oak­land Uni­fied prin­ci­pals went to Sacra­mento to lobby law­mak­ers to boost

fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion, for­give the dis­trict’s re­main­ing $36 mil­lion debt af­ter fall­ing into state re­ceiver­ship in 2003, and to re­vise char­ter school laws.

The dis­trict and the union have agreed to re­sume ne­go­ti­a­tions at 9 a.m. Fri­day, Brown said. But un­less a bet­ter of­fer is made be­fore then, the strike will con­tinue through the day. Brown said the teach­ers are pre­pared to strike beyond that, though he hopes that won’t be nec­es­sary.

“This strike is a cri­sis that the dis­trict has cre­ated, and what we are do­ing as ed­u­ca­tors is re­spond­ing to make sure that our stu­dents are a pri­or­ity,” Brown said.

Teach­ers plan to set up picket lines as early as 6:30 a.m. at all schools, ac­cord­ing to so­cial me­dia posts from the Oak­land Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion. The picket lines will con­tinue un­til 10:30 a.m., af­ter which teach­ers in­tend to gather at Frank Ogawa Plaza in down­town Oak­land and march to the nearby Oak­land Uni­fied cen­tral of­fice

on Broad­way. The picket lines will re­sume from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Sasaki said the dis­trict has pre­pared for the strike by lin­ing up sub­sti­tutes and ad­min­is­tra­tors to teach classes. He said he did not know how many subs had been hired.

Sasaki also couldn’t say how much teach­ing is likely to oc­cur in the class­rooms to­day. Prin­ci­pals will have ac­cess to “ap­pro­pri­ate in­struc­tional plans” that can be im­ple­mented, ac­cord­ing to a dis­trict news re­lease. Dis­trict of­fi­cials did not elab­o­rate.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment on the dis­trict’s web­site, cen­tral of­fice em­ploy­ees will be de­ployed to work at school sites and hire emer­gency tem­po­rary teach­ers.

“Many of our cen­tral of­fice em­ploy­ees are for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tors and teach­ers and are well equipped to sup­port our schools,” the state­ment reads.

The dis­trict is ad­vis­ing par­ents to take their chil­dren to school as usual or drop them off at one of

the 15 recre­ation cen­ters through­out the city that the Oak­land Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion will have opened. The cen­ters will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and staffed by union mem­bers as well as vol­un­teers.

All city pub­lic li­braries also will be open dur­ing reg­u­lar op­er­at­ing hours. Chil­dren 7 and younger must be ac­com­pa­nied by an adult, how­ever.

The Tay­lor Me­mo­rial United Methodist Church, at 1188 12th St., also will be avail­able for up to 250 stu­dents, and chil­dren will be of­fered lunch.

Stu­dents who do not show up to school will have an un­ex­cused ab­sence, un­less a par­ent/guardian has called in to ex­cuse them.

A mes­sage posted on Oak­land Tech High School’s web­site said stu­dents who at­tend class to­day will be su­per­vised in a larger group, and part of the cam­pus will be closed. The school asks ninth-grade stu­dents to re­port to the li­brary by 8 a.m., then move to the au­di­to­rium an hour

later to join the other stu­dents. Sopho­mores, ju­niors and se­niors are sup­posed to re­port to the au­di­to­rium at 9 a.m.

Stu­dents at Oak­land Tech won’t be able to en­ter and exit the school at will, the mes­sage said. Though par­ents can pick up their stu­dents at any point through­out the day, the of­fice will not call home to seek par­ents’ per­mis­sion for stu­dents to leave. Par­ents are en­cour­aged to bring iden­ti­fi­ca­tion if they wish to pick up their stu­dents be­fore the end of day.

Break­fast and lunch will be pro­vided to stu­dents at all dis­trict schools to­day.

The Oak­land Ath­letic League — the dis­trict’s sports branch — has can­celed all spring sports across the dis­trict. But all win­ter sports play­offs and fi­nals games will con­tinue as sched­uled.


Joaquin Miller El­e­men­tary re­source spe­cial­ist Ash­ley De Melo as­sem­bles picket signs at the Oak­land Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of­fice.

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