Weeklong Oakland teachers’ strike ends with tentative agreement
A weeklong teachers’ strike in Oakland ended Friday with a tentative contract that was met by cheers from union leaders.
Under the proposed contract, teachers will receive an 11% salary increase over four years, as well as a 3% bonus upon ratification, according to the Oakland Education Assn. The contract also puts a five-month pause on school closures and consolidations, as well as a moratorium on the opening of new charter schools.
“Our power in the streets prevailed, our love of students prevailed and our determination for a better future for the students of Oakland prevailed,” Oakland Education Assn. President Keith Brown said at a news conference Friday.
Teachers have 24 hours to look over the contract and decide whether to ratify it. A vote is expected Saturday, with teachers returning to school on Monday.
“Today marks a sea change for OUSD as we take a major step in support of our teachers and students,” Oakland Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a statement. “The contract will help ensure more teachers stay in Oakland and that more come to teach in our classrooms and support our students.”
Teachers headed to the picket lines on Feb. 21, a day after the district offered them a 7% raise over three years. Educators, who said their demands have been ignored for two years, called for higher salaries and smaller class sizes.
During the seven-day strike, more than 95% of the union’s 30,000 members were behind the picket line, according to the union. Though all schools remained open, 97% of students did not attend, the union said.
“Through the power of a strike, the people of Oakland have spoken,” Brown said.
The contract also proposes reducing class sizes in high-need schools by one student starting next year, and reducing all class sizes by one student in the 2021-22 school year. The deal also requires the district to hire more student support staff, including special education teachers, psychologists and nurses.
“We cannot fix decades of chronic underinvestment in education with a single contract, but this is an important first step,” Johnson-Trammell said. “We look forward to everyone being together again in the classroom and engaged in teaching and learning.”
The cost of living in Oakland is among the highest in the country. But a beginning K-12 teacher in the Oakland Unified district makes $46,570, according to district figures. The maximum teacher’s salary is $83,724.
Many union leaders pointed out that California overall ranks 41st in the nation in per-pupil spending for K-12 students, according to the California Budget and Policy Center.
“After seven long days of rain and sunshine, we were able to win what we should’ve had in the first place ... to be able to move from the 41st in the nation to No. 1,” Elizabeth Ortega-Toro, Alameda Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer, said during the news conference. “Because that’s what California should be when we talk about public education.”
In January, teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike that ended when they settled on a 6% raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.
During the Oakland strike, other school district workers protested alongside teachers, including administrative assistants, early child educators and IT staff. Some of those workers are still struggling, even sleeping in their cars, because they can’t afford Bay Area rent, Bettie Reed Smith, president of the Oakland Unified chapter of SEIU 1021, said at the news conference.
“I want to congratulate the teachers for reaching a tentative agreement. We are proud to have stood in solidarity with you,” she said. “All classified workers represented by SEIU will continue to fight to stop the cuts.”
The Associated Press and Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.
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