Some Oakland teachers call for one-day strike over a 'livable, competitive wage'

The teachers and support staff at several schools in Oakland have called for a one-day strike on Friday to show the Oakland Unified School District that the rank-and-file teachers want a "livable, competitive wage."

 "We are ready to strike for lower class sizes," according to a Tuesday statement sent by two Skyline High School teachers, Casey Dolan and Donna Salonga. "We are ready to strike for the schools that our students deserve."

Here's a look at how much Bay Area teachers get paid

Teachers, support staff and others will join several other schools at Oakland Technical High School at  8 a.m., and then rally at 9 a.m., before marching down Broadway to the district rally. The rally will continue until 1 p.m. Teachers at Tech have also told their students they plan to participate in the "sickout." 

Organizers of the 'Skyline Sickout' said "significant portions" of Fremont High, Oakland Tech, Oakland High, United for Success, and West Oakland Middle School will all be participating.  Last week, teachers at Berkeley High held a morning rally to also demand more pay. 

Oakland teachers have been without a contract for 18 months, said Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown. The union is asking for a 12 percent raise over three years; the district is offering 5 percent. Teacher salaries in Oakland range from $46,000 a year to $84,000 a year. According to data compiled by the union, Oakland teachers are the lowest paid in Alameda County. 

Oakland Unified School District issued a statement on Tuesday that read: "We have received word that some OUSD high school teachers are planning to stage a one-day 'sick out' this coming Friday. We urge them not to engage in this illegal labor action, which is not sanctioned by their union. We want our teachers to know that everyone on the Board of Education and in district leadership firmly believe that they deserve to be paid more. We are committed to working with the [Oakland Education Association] to come to an equitable contract that works for both sides." 

The teachers said in their statement that "for too long, OUSD and the state of California have failed to meet the needs of its children and the professionals who teach them. The state of California has foreclosed on its promise of a quality education for all students, consistently ranking among the worst states in terms of per pupil funding and class size. Meanwhile, California prohibits localities from effectively controlling rent increases, squeezing vulnerable teachers and families out of our schools and

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The teachers said that OUSD pays its teachers less than every other district in Alameda County, and this is the reason that students lose approximately one quarter of their teachers every year.

This movement comes on the heels of a rally held Saturday at Oakland City Hall organized by the East Bay Coalition for Public Education.

On Tuesday, teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District were into their second day of striking, and many of their issues are the same across the state. Public education funding in many states has not returned to levels seen before the Great Recession, schools are facing teacher shortages tied to low pay and the pressures of standardized testing and teacher evaluations, and the rise of alternatives to traditional public schools is blamed for eroding already scarce resources.

"On one level, what you see is teachers getting courage from other teachers in other states. We saw that this past spring," University of South Carolina law professor Derek Black said. "But all of them were experiencing conditions that, in their own right, did not require outside inspiration."

A look at some of the issues:


Six years after the 2009 end of the Great Recession, California was among 29 states still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzed spending data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Arizona, Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma cut income tax rates in recent years, further straining finances in an age of more stringent learning standards.

In 2016, California spent $11,495 per pupil. That was up nearly 10 percent from the previous year but still just under the national average and about half of what the highest spending state - New York - committed.

Union leaders say it has left schools without enough nurses, librarians, psychologists and counselors. About 80 percent of the district's schools lack a full-time nurse, United Teachers Los Angeles said.


Teachers who were among the nation's worst-paid educators - with average salaries in the low- to mid-$40,000s - came out of the spring walkouts with wins.

Oklahoma teachers were promised an average $6,100 raise. Arizona teachers won a 20 percent raise over three years, and West Virginia teachers, the first to walk out in a movement that would coalesce under the #RedForEd banner, secured a 5 percent boost in pay.

California ranks among the top states for average teacher salaries but also for cost of living.

In Los Angeles, where the average home price of more than $600,000 dwarfs the national average, teachers earn between $44,000 and $86,000 a year depending on their education and experience, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has offered a 6 percent raise over the first two years of a three-year contract. The union wants a 6.5 percent raise at the start of a two-year contract.

An April poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Americans overwhelmingly believe teachers don't make enough money, a finding borne out by the Economic Policy Institute, which measured an 11 percent weekly pay gap between teachers and similarly educated professionals.


Los Angeles teachers are sharing stories of students sitting on window sills or the floor of overcrowded classrooms.

"Amidst the wealth of LA, we shouldn't have classes with more than 45 students," union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said.

Last year, social media posts from Oklahoma teachers who didn't have enough chairs for their students gave the public a glimpse into classrooms with 30 students or more. That's about double the number recommended in a 2016 report by the National Education Policy Center, which found class size affected student outcomes.

The LA district said its latest contract offer includes $100 million to add nearly 1,000 additional teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians in 2019-20 and reduce some class sizes.


Los Angeles and Oakland are experiencing the same tension over charter schools seen in Arizona and elsewhere, with critics arguing the privately run public schools hurt district finances by drawing away students and the funding that goes with them. Caputo-Pearl has called the money flowing to charters an "existential threat."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.