Oakland teachers to discuss possible strike next week

Oakland public school classrooms could soon be empty as teachers could go on strike as soon as next week. 

The Oakland Education Association teacher’s union, representing almost 3,000 teachers, counselors and nurses, notified the media Friday it would make a major announcement Saturday regarding a possible strike.

Also Friday, the union and the Oakland Unified School District received the report from a three-member fact finding panel digging into the school district finances. Teachers said they wouldn't strike until after seeing that report.

"The fact finding report won't prevent us or provoke us from going out. It’s all in the district's hands to come up with a serious counter-proposal. Absent that, it would be hard for us not to move forward with a work action," said Chaz Garcia, a union vice-president and a special education teacher.

Oakland Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell issued a video statement indicating the report could be helpful.

"Overall, we are pleased with the recommendations and find it to be a solid foundation for returning to the bargaining table," she said.

The teachers are seeking a 12 percent pay hike over three years, along with smaller class sizes and more classroom support. The district is offering a five percent pay increase and is facing a $21 million budget deficit.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged both sides to settle. But if there is a strike, the city is planning to keep public libraries open along with 15 recreation centers where teachers and community members have agreed to volunteer.

"The biggest impact on our work action would be receiving a counter-proposal from the district, which they said was forth-coming over the last week or so and we have not received anything," said Garcia.

There is still time for a strike to be averted.

But many people in the union and in the district say a strike is looking more and more likely. More clarity should come Saturday.