OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A huge crowd of Oakland public school teachers, students, parents and others rallied outside Oakland City Hall on Thursday in support of a teacher strike during its first day.
Keith Brown, the president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents the school district’s 3,000 teachers, spoke at the rally in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza.
“This is one of the most inspiring days of my life and we are making history today. Parents, teachers and students spoke with their feet today. 85 percent of Oakland teachers were on picket lines this morning,” said Brown.
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The strike, which occurred after two years of failed negotiations between the union and the school district, is the first potentially long-term walkout by Oakland teachers since 1996, when they went on strike for more than two months.
Teachers staged a one-day strike on April 29, 2010, to protest stalled contract talks and the school board’s decision to impose a contract on the union.
Brown said on Wednesday that the union is hoping that the strike is short but said its length is “indefinite” and will last for more than one day.
After the rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, the crowd filled Oakland city streets as they marched to the school district headquarters at 1000 Broadway.
Teachers are asking for a 12 percent raise, smaller class sizes and more school support staff including counselors and nurses. But the district says it simply doesn’t have the money.
“Then you need to make some cuts in the administrative offices,” one school librarian countered.
“In the two and a half years I’ve been here, we cut the administration significantly. This place is a ghost town compared to how it used to be,” said OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki.
He said the district plans to cut another $22 million from the administration’s budget in the coming years, but it still won’t be enough to meet the teachers demands
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“Just cutting a few people at a certain level is not going to cover the kind of cost we’re talking about,” said Sasaki.
He noted that if they increase teacher salaries, it is district policy to also increase school staff salaries. For the teachers alone, he says it will cost the district $1.9 million for every 1 percent increase.
In all, the difference between what the teachers are asking for and what the district is currently offering stands at more than $9 million.
When asked what school attendance numbers were during the first day of the teacher strike, district officials explained that most of the administration staff was actually on school campuses helping out Thursday, so there was no one back of the offices to actually tally those numbers and handle normal administrative duties.
Officials will likely take some time to determine and release attendance numbers for Thursday.
Brown said the two sides will meet again at 9 a.m. Friday at an undisclosed location. They will negotiate through the weekend if needed and notify parents Sunday if the strike is going to continue next week.
KPIX 5 correspondent Julie Watts contributed to this report.
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