OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU/AP/BCN) - Boasting larger picket lines than the day before and a packed midday rally, teachers in Oakland concluded another day of strikes Friday without coming to an agreement with the district.
Day 2: The billionaire privatizers that bought the Oakland School Board want to see 24 of Oaklands 86 public schools closed in the next year and inevitably reopened as charters. We will not let that happen. Tune in on Sunday at 6pm for a bargaining update. #Unite4OaklandKids pic.twitter.com/mk3U1EhNdQ— Oakland Education Association (@OaklandEA) February 23, 2019
In a call to parents, the district said that administrators were hopeful an end to the strike was "in reach" and they would negotiate over the weekend. But they also said that students and their families should prepare for the fact that the strike could very well resume for the third day on Monday.
"OUSD has made it through day two of the teachers strike, and as yet there is still no agreement with the Oakland Education Association to end the strike," said district spokesman John Sasaki. "The district's negotiating team is focused on finding a workable solution that properly compensates teachers and is sustainable for the District. We look forward to finding a resolution and getting everyone back in the classroom teaching and learning."
At a news conference Friday evening, Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown said the union has already ordered 3,000 ponchos for Monday because heavy rain is in the forecast. He was shy on details in terms of what was said during the second-day negotiations, but he did say he would get involved in contract talks.
"I will intervene and see what I can do to get the process moving," Brown said. "I need to get involved in the process for the benefit of the community."
The teachers' union posted a video update late Friday saying they would have a bargaining update Sunday at 6 p.m.
The teachers are asking for a 12 percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. According to the union, an Oakland teacher's starting pay is $46,000 and ending pay is about $85,000. The Oakland Unified School District had been offering a 5 percent raise over three years, but then upped that amount to a 7 percent raise over four years and a one-time 1.5 percent bonus. The union rejected that offer. A neutral fact-finder said the district can't afford what the teachers are asking for, and he recommended a 6 percent raise over two years, with the option of negotiating for more in the third year.
Early on Friday, Oakland Tech English and history teacher Jay-Yee Woo acknowledged it was stressful to be on the picket line without a pay check, but that it would be worth it in the long run. Other teachers told stories of barely being able to pay rent, or having several jobs and roommates to be able to live in the costly Bay Area.
Aside from pay, teachers also want smaller class sizes and say the district needs to hire more full-time nurses and school counselors.
The union has also called for the district to scrap plans to close as many as 24 schools that serve primarily African-American and Latino students, although the district has repeatedly said that there are not enough children to fill all these schools, and closing them is a way to save money. The union fears further students will be lost to charter schools that drain more than $57 million a year from the district.
Local radio host Sana G. posted on Instagram a short video with a dozen Bay Area celebrities, including comedians, musicians, sports stars and others each saying, "I stand with Oakland teachers." Local celebrities like MC Hammer, Stephen Curry and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali showed support in a video to say they "stand with Oakland teachers." Comedian W. Kamau Bell even went out to the picket lines to support the teachers, too. "Oakland is a union town!" he tweeted.
Political powerhouses from U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf all tweeted their support for the teachers as well. Presidential hopeful and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders even weighed in on Twitter. "I stand with
@OaklandEA teachers who are fighting for smaller class sizes, fairer pay, more student support, and fundamentally defending public education," he wrote.
The walkout affects 36,000 students at 87 schools. The union estimated that 90 percent of the students were not in class for the last two days, but the district has not been able to tally the final attendance numbers because the employees who do that were busy supervising children who came to school.
Recent strikes across the nation have built on a wave of teacher activism that began last spring. Unions for West Virginia teachers, who staged a nine-day walkout last year, ended another two-day strike Wednesday. Last week, teachers in Denver ended a three-day walkout after reaching a tentative deal raising their wages.
Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike last month that ended when they settled on a 6-percent raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.
Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker, Janie Har and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report. KTVU's Lisa Fernandez and Elissa Harrington contributed to this report. Bay City News reporter Jeff Shuttleworth contributed to this report.