Oakland teachers walk out, demand higher wages

Dozens of teachers participated in a walk out on Monday in Oakland to demand higher wages and protest overcrowding in classrooms.

Several dozen teachers from Oakland High School did not show up to work, and marched instead to Oakland City Hall and the Oakland Unified School District headquarters. Teachers said they used a personal day for the strike, which was not sanctioned by the teacher’s union, Oakland Education Association.

Several teachers said they can’t afford to live in the city they teach in. They are demanding a livable wage, reduced caseloads for special education teachers, and smaller class sizes.

Educators have been without a contract since July 2017 when OUSD offered teacher a 5% raise over three years, according OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki. 

“We’re asking for 12% over three years which would do something, but we still need more to attract and retain teachers in a unique way,” Emily Macy, an Oakland High School teacher, said. “They don’t have us by our purse strings, they have us by our heart strings. We love our students. We love our school and they get away with paying us so little because we care so much about those students.”

Sasaki said the district had to call in several dozen substitute teachers for Oakland High and combine some classes. He said the district is in negotiations with the Oakland Education Association and they hope for a resolution soon.

“We all want our educators to be paid more. There’s no question about that. We are all educators. We all want our students educated by the best people possible. That’s the challenge we’re taking now. We’ve been working on it for over a year and a half,” Sasaki said. “The question is, how much can we pay in addition to what we’re already paying and how are we going to get that money. That’s what we still have to answer.”

The walk out comes as the district deals with a multi-million-dollar deficit and is considering closing some schools. Sasaki said the district is in the process of combining two middle schools in East Oakland, which would result in the closure of one school. He also said the district should have a plan in February 2019 that will determine which schools will be affected.

Several students came to show support for the strike because they said their teachers often stay after hours to help them or during their lunch breaks without pay. They wanted to help return the favor of support.

Sasaki said the district is considering taking disciplinary action against the teachers and possibly the students. He called today’s walk out “disruptive” as students are preparing for finals next week.