OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Oakland Unified School District's 2,300 teachers went on strike at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, leaving the district’s 37,000 students and their parents in a quandary about where to go and what to do.
The Oakland Education Association is asking for a 12 percent raise. In all, that would total $24 million in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the district’s statistics.
The district had been offering a 5 percent raise, which would cost $10 million. But on Wednesday, during an 11th-hour negotiation, the district offered up to an 8.5 percent salary increase over four years, which the union said wasn't enough.
Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown said the latest offer does not address the high cost of living that is driving educators out of Oakland.
A neutral fact-finder recommended a 6 percent raise for now and then a chance to negotiate for higher wages in the third year, because the district is not financially healthy and is facing a $57 million shortfall in 2020-21.
Oakland teachers earn the lowest of all teachers in Alameda County, according to salaries compiled by the union. Teachers start at about $46,000 and max out at about $85,000. The teachers haven't had a contract since July 2017.
"Everyone knows teachers need to make more money. We support all that. It's a matter of what can we do within our financial ability," said district spokesman John Sasaki. But the district is facing a $21 million deficit.
The teachers said they are striking to send a message.
"The money is there to prioritize students. It's a matter of the district shifting priorities," said Brown.
Aside from salaries, teachers are fighting for smaller class sizes and increasing the pay for the hours they work. The teachers want $50 an hour and the district is proposing an “increase in duty rate” to $35.
Schools will be open during the strike and students will have to cross picket lines if they want to attend classes taught by central office employees, retired and former OUSD principals and emergency temporary substitute teachers. These short-term substitutes will get paid $300 a day, according to the district.
Students will not be following regular lesson plans, the district said. What will be taught is a bit unclear.
If students don’t want to cross the picket lines, 15 recreational centers and public libraries will be open and staffed by volunteers.
If students do not go to school during the strike, the district will lose its daily attendance funding. In Los Angeles, when the teachers went on strike for three days, the total lost revenue was $69 million during that time period.
At a rally on Wednesday, dozens of Skyline High School walked out of class in solidarity with teachers, chanting "Books, supplies, lower class size!"
Brown said come Thursday, all 86 school sites across Oakland would have picket lines. An 11:30 a.m. rally is set for Frank Ogawa Plaza .
The two sides will meet again at 9 a.m. on Friday, according to Brown.
As for how long the strike will last is anyone’s guess. The district said that most strikes last one to two days, but in 1996, the teachers went on strike for five weeks.
Unchecked charter growth is starving our schools of necessary resources. This is why we we're striking against the district's plan to close 24 of our neighborhood public schools. #Unite4OaklandKids pic.twitter.com/3uHpgcZ5t2— Oakland Education Association (@OaklandEA) February 20, 2019
For other information on the strike: