Oakland Teachers Vote to Strike, “If Necessary”

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Teachers and supporters rally Tuesday at Oakland City Hall. Photo courtesy of Brooke Anderson.

Oakland Unified School District teachers have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a
strike, “if necessary,” for higher wages, more counselors and school nurses, and against
the school district’s plan to close up to 24 schools and open many new charter schools.
Educators at all 86 Oakland Unified School District sites voted over four days last week.

Of the 2,311 legal votes cast, 2,206 educators voted yes, or 95.45 percent.
“No strike date has been set – but without a very serious proposal by the school board,
we expect to be on strike by the end of the month,” Oakland Education Association
(OEA) President Keith Brown said at a news conference Monday. “If the school board
won’t act, we will act.”

The OEA is affiliated with the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. So far,
at least 17 other Bay Area CTA chapters of teachers’ unions have pledged nearly
$20,000 to the OEA strike fund to assist teachers facing financial hardships during a
strike, with more pledges continuing to be received.

Friday, Feb. 1, was the second and final day of a hearing with a state-appointed neutral
fact-finder, Najeeb Khoury, who was working to resolve the contract negotiations crisis
by issuing a non-binding report, which is expected on Feb. 15. After the report is issued,
the Oakland Education Association, which represents 3,000 OUSD educators.

In a press statement released Monday, the district said it is seeking to give teachers a
raise in pay “within the reality of our financial situation.”

“We believe that our teachers deserve a fair wage, and we are doing everything we can to find a solution,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “We will continue to advocate for more funding from the state and find a way to compensate our teachers fairly.”

The district did not respond to the union’s strong opposition to closing schools, including Roots International Academy in East Oakland and the district’s new policy merging its management with privately-operated charter school organizations.

Teachers and their supporters were out in force Tuesday night as the Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the teachers.

“Our teachers and support service providers are the hearts and souls of our schools and directly impact student learning. Our students suffer when their teaching and support staff are over-worked, underpaid, and find themselves in over-crowded classroom settings,” wrote City Council President Rebecca Kaplan.

“The City Council is also urging OUSD to avoid closing public schools,” wrote
Kaplan.

“With reports of up to 24 schools slated for closure, it is a citywide concern as it
potentially impacts thousands of Oakland children, according to Kaplan’s report.

“Studies also show that school closures are a high-risk/low- gain strategy that
fails to hold promise with respect to either student achievement or non- cognitive
well-being.”

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