Berkeley teachers rally; demand raise, new contract

Image 1 of 2

Hundreds of teachers, parents, staff, and students marched through the streets of Berkeley, demanding higher wages and a new contract for educators on Wednesday. 

"We're working on an expired contract. We didn't settle. We didn't get to an agreement last spring, so here we are, trying to get our needs met. [We're] trying to do what's right for our students," said President of Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) Matt Meyer.  

BFT is the union that represents the 900 educators, counselors, and psychologists. The union is asking for more special education staffing, a 5.75% raise for the current school year, and a similar amount for the 2020-2021 year. 

However, the district is offering 2.25%, which some feel is another reason more than 80 teachers left the district last year.  

"Teachers are coming and going and we've seen a few leave. I know it is because of the wages and not being able to afford this high cost of living here in Berkeley," said parent Joiya Mitchell.  

"We keep losing them. They're moving to Fremont, Fremont pays more. They're moving out of state. We can't keep our [Instructional Assistants] who support our special education students," said Berkeley teacher and parent Julianna Riley. 

Many of the Berkeley teachers came out to support Oakland educators in their fight for more money earlier this year. Some Oakland teachers returned the favor Wednesday night.  

"I'm an Oakland teacher and I'm a Berkeley resident. So I'm here both in my own interest because I live in the city of Berkeley, but also to support the Berkeley teachers," said, Oakland Teacher Shelby Ziesing

"We need the best teachers to be able to have these jobs and stay in these jobs," said Oakland Teacher Jeremy Wolff.  

The board meeting was at standing room only, with more than 300 in attendance.

Showing their support to educators who've been without a contract since the end of June, the teachers' union said Berkeley educators are ranked 18 out of 20 for salary in Alameda County in 2017 and expect to be even lower since many districts increased teachers’ pay.  

The board voted to move forward with a parcel tax for March's ballot. If approved, the funds would go towards educators pay, retaining and recruiting teacher in the future.