Oakland teachers to protest excessive cuts to district's budget

Oakland teachers are planning to demonstrate at the school district's board meeting this evening over what they're calling excessive budget cuts to avoid a possible takeover by the state, teachers' officials said.

The demonstration starts at 6:30 p.m. at La Escuelita Elementary School, which can be accessed through 1100 Third Ave. or 1050 Second Ave. in Oakland.

Board members have added to the teachers' strife by deciding to meet in a room for about 60 people rather than a typically larger space because of a "technical issue," Oakland Education Association spokeswoman Trish Gorham said.

"I think they're taking the easy way out and not facing the public," Gorham said.

But school district spokesman John Sasaki said that's absolutely not the case. He said a graduation starts at 5 p.m. in the auditorium where the meeting usually takes place and won't be over until 6:15 p.m. or 6:30 p.m.

Then it takes about two to three hours to set up for the school board meeting, he said.

The school board meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the board's committee room in the school.

Anyone who cannot sit in the committee room will be able to watch on a closed circuit television from the regular meeting room, which holds about 400 people.

Everyone who submits a comment card will be able provide their comments inside the committee room when their name is called.

The teachers contend that the district needs to cut only $1.2 million from the budget to provide necessary reserves to stave off a takeover by the state.

Gorham said the board is panicking by wanting to make bigger cuts to have more reserves.

Teachers are also demanding that the cuts not involve services and resources for students and not involve mid-year layoffs of workers whose wages are the lowest in the district.

Though Sasaki didn't say which workers might be laid off, he said it's likely that layoffs will occur.

"That's almost inevitable," he said.

The board is trying to avoid cuts to student services and resources, Sasaki said.

Teachers say the district is facing a budget deficit because of overspending on contracts and salaries for administrators.

Sasaki couldn't comment about the details of the budget discussions. He said details would be discussed at the meeting.

According to officials for the teachers, Oakland High School student Alana Rust said at a recent board meeting her school's administrators are having trouble providing art supplies and even bathroom supplies. Rust added that the proposed cuts could take away mental health services and college advisors.

"These things are not luxuries," she said.