Oakland schools meet to discuss layoffs, $20M in budget cuts

Oakland school officials say they plan to keep schools open if teachers do go out on strike.

"We are going to be bringing in different individuals. Some may be substitutes, some may be folks from the central office. So the plans may look differently based on whether it is an elementary, middle or high school," said Oakland schools superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell.

Teachers announced earlier this week they are prepared to strike. A fact-finding report is due by February 15 and a strike could happen after that.

The teachers are seeking 12 percent pay hikes over three years, plus smaller class sizes and more support in the classroom.

The district has offered five percent pay increases over three years. 

"We are in the process of a developing a counter-offer. I can't really provide any other details," said Johnson-Trammell.

The Oakland Education Association, representing approximately 3,000 teachers, said the union is willing to listen to any "serious" offer.    

It is unclear if the two sides have set up any new bargaining sessions.

"We do know we have a teacher retention crisis. We do want to provide more compensation to stem the tide of teacher turnover," said school board president Aimee Eng.

But providing more money could be a challenge. The superintendent and the school board are set to discuss plans to cut $21 million from the budget Wednesday night. Those cuts are expected to include possible layoffs and program reductions.

"We all want smaller class sizes, higher pay, more counselors. But we have to figure out how to make this happen in our current financial reality," said Johnson-Trammell.

"We are not in favor of the district cutting supports for students. We are looking to invest in public education," said union leader Ismael Armendariz.

Teachers and administrators do agree the Oakland Unified School District has been mismanaged in the past.

They also say Sacramento and Washington need to provide much more money to school districts.