Hundreds of students walk out of class in support of Oakland teachers fighting for higher wages

While Oakland teachers finished voting Friday on whether to authorize a strike, hundreds of students at Oakland Technical High School walked out of class.

They wanted to show support for teachers who are fighting for higher wages and lower class sizes. Students say their teachers deserve a better contract.

"What they have now, they can't live in the Bay area for long. I want to stand here and fight for better pay and more class supplies," said student Cecily Read.

In a back room at the headquarters of the teacher’s union, picket signs are stacking up, just in case the district's more than 21-hundred teachers go on strike.

The teachers are asking for a 12 percent pay hike over the next three years. The Oakland unified school district is offering five percent. Teachers also want more support in the classroom.

"Our pay is in direct relation to our losing teachers," said Oakland Education Association vice-president Chaz Garcia.

The school district has a $30 million budget deficit. The board of education voted to close one school Roots Academy and says more closure are coming.

The union says the district has the money to pay them.

"When you start adding up the number of administrators there is a substantial amount that could be diverted to the classroom.    There is also a great deal of money spent on consultants," Garcia said.

The district says central office cuts alone will not get it out of this financial hole.

"If we cut $30 million from the central office the functioning of the district would come to a halt," said school district spokesman John Sasaki.

The two sides are currently meeting with a three-member fact-finding panel charged with digging into the district's financial picture.

The panel is expected to issue its report February 15th. But its findings are non-binding. 

If the vote goes in the direction of striking, which we kind of expect it to, we would know this is a reality that could actually happen. And we have to make sure we are looking under every rock," said Sasaki.

"How they are spending their money is not a reflection that students are a priority.

The strike votes are expected to be tallied Saturday.

The union says  if there is a teachers strike, it would most likely happen towards the end of February, at the earliest.