Public school teachers across Oakland, CA, went on strike Thursday morning, taking action for better resources, smaller class sizes, and pay raises in one of the country’s most expensive areas to live.
Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association teacher’s union, told the Associated Press ahead of the 8 a.m. walkout that the union has attempted “to make our students a priority over outside consultants and central office administrators” amid negotiations.
Oakland’s 3,000 teachers are asking for a 12 percent retroactive raise that would cover 2017 to 2020, smaller class sizes, and more counselors and full-time nurses for students. The strike is expected to affect 86 schools with 36,000 students.
The Oakland strike, which follows similar actions taken by teachers in Los Angeles and Denver last month, has been a long time coming. The Oakland Education Association and the Oakland Unified School District’s contract expired two years ago, according to the Mercury News, and efforts to negotiate a new one over the last two years have failed. From the News:
The union contends the district’s offers don’t come close to paying teachers enough to make ends meet in the high-priced Bay Area. The average annual salary for Oakland teachers was $63,149 during the 2017-18 school year, according to a report from the state’s Department of Education. Salaries ranged from $46,570 to $83,724.
Before talks broke off Wednesday, Oakland Unified offered an across-the-board raise of about 7 percent raise across two-and-a-half years retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2021, plus a 1.5 percent bonus — slightly up from its original offer of 5 percent over three years. The union has been holding out for a 12 percent increase over three years.
Across Twitter, posters are using the hashtag #OaklandTeachersStrike to share scenes from the strikes at various schools.
According to the Mercury News, this is the third strike by Oakland public school teachers in 23 years; the last one, in 2010, ended after a day. Per the Mercury News, union leaders plan to return to the bargaining table on Friday at 9 a.m.
District spokesman John Sasaki told the Mercury News that he couldn’t say how many students would come to class on Thursday, or how much they would actually be taught if they attended. Meanwhile, a district news release stated that principals have “appropriate instructional plans” for students.