Day 5: School board meeting canceled, Oakland teachers strike continues

The Oakland school board postponed a meeting scheduled for Wednesday night as a strike by 3,000 teachers, nurses, counselors and other staff members continued for a fifth day.

The school board had been scheduled to vote on the district's proposal to make $21.75 million in budget cuts for the 2019-20 school year, as the district says it faces a $56 million budget shortfall by 2020-21 if no reductions are made.

The district also said in a statement, "These reductions are needed to prioritize investing in a raise for our Oakland Education Association (the teachers' union) members that will help students and teachers return to school as soon as possible."

But the district said, "Unfortunately, the teachers' union prevented the meeting from happening by directing members to picket 'until meeting canceled.'"

It said, "We are disheartened by tactics that directly interfere with the district's ability to give the teachers a raise and get students and teachers back into classrooms."

The district said the board will hold its meeting on the proposed budget cuts at a later date.

The teachers' strike began last Thursday after two years of failed negotiations between the union and the school district and likely will continue for a sixth day on Thursday.

The teachers' union is seeking a 12 percent pay raise over three years and the district previously offered a 5 percent raise over three years but last week made a new offer of 8.5 percent over four years.

However, OEA President Keith Brown has said that's still not enough to meet the union's demand for a living wage that addresses the high cost of living in Oakland.

The district said that on Monday it increased its offer to an 8 percent ongoing raise plus a 2 percent bonus for a total increase of 10 percent.

The district said, "Collectively, we could end this strike now. We look forward to receiving a new proposal from the OEA and remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement soon."

On Wednesday morning strike supporters occupied the lobby of the Elihu M. Harris State Office Building in downtown Oakland, where the talks between the union and the school district are taking place, to try to put pressure on the district to settle the contract dispute.