Families prepare in case Oakland teachers strike Thursday

Families in Oakland are preparing to join thousands of teachers if they go on strike starting Thursday.

If the 3,000 educators do strike, it will be the first work stoppage in two decades. 

The teacher’s union wants a 12 percent pay hike over three years, along with smaller classes and more classroom support.

The district is offering a 5 percent pay increase, while facing a $30 million budget shortfall. 

More than 35,000 Oakland students in 87 schools will still have the chance to attend classes as all schools will be open Thursday. The district plans to hire temporary teachers and city libraries and 15 recreation centers will be open as "solidary schools." 

Luna Soo, 10, isn't sure what to expect come Thursday. The fourth grader may show up to school and her teacher may not be there.

“I wonder how long the strike will last,” she said. “We may be doing other projects and learning what the strike is, why they are doing it.”

Prescott Elementary School teacher Rosenda Thomas is among the teachers planning to picket at 7 a.m. Thursday. It will be her fourth strike in 40 years, she said. Thomas said she wants a living wage, because her pay is the lowest rate in Alameda County.

“I don't think I should be thrown crumbs,” said Thomas. “I want the whole pie. I don't want a slice. I want it all.”

Thomas said teachers need to be paid as much as police officers, as other professionals.

“If we get to Thursday and if there is a strike it will certainly be an extraordinary day in OUSD,” said Oakland Unified School District Spokesman John Sasaki. “Parents will have to be prepared. Families must take extraordinary measures to ensure everything is okay.”

Parent Liz Suk is planning to send her two children to a solidarity school and also running one herself. It’s a place for parents who support the strike to take their children.

“We will have different types of classes,” said Suk. “We might have some space for music. We will have space for art. We will have space for political education around the strike.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf is urging both sides to head back to the negotiating table and said she's been in touch with the Los Angeles mayor following that city's teacher walkout and Gov. Gavin Newsom about his budget proposal to fund public education.

“If his budget passes, it is optimistic news that both sides have received to give more clarity about what governor's budget could mean for Oakland,” said Schaaf. 

A community meeting is set for Tuesday night to help parents better understand what could be in store come Thursday. The last strike by Oakland teachers was in 1996 and it lasted 28 days.