OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Picket lines went up outside Oakland schools early Thursday after negotiators failed to reach an agreement on a new contract involving pay raises and class sizes.
Teachers, student and parents join in on the pickets lines outside many of the district’s 86 schools. Among the strike supporters was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf whose two children attempt Oakland schools.
“As an OUSD alum and parent, I stand w/ Oakland teachers who deserve higher wages and better working conditions,” Schaaf tweeted. “To ensure a sustainable education system where everyone thrives, we need a fiscally stable OUSD that is locally controlled. Our goals are shared.”
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East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee also voiced her support.
“I stand with the teachers on strike in Oakland. Teachers dedicate their lives to preparing and educating our next generation of leaders,” she tweeted. “They deserve a living wage, proper resources, and our support.”
The strike impacting 36,000 students began at 6:30 a.m. and was the first by teachers in the Oakland Unified School District in more than 20 years. It came after union leaders rejected an offer of a 7 percent raise over four years and a one-time 1.5 percent bonus.
The union wants a 12 percent pay increase over three years. The two sides have been in talks for more than a year and have agreed to return to the table on Friday.
“We made a proposal last night,” said district spokesman John Sasaki. “It is more than the fact finding recommended based on our financial situation.”
In a message to parents, officials said the schools will remain open, staffed by non-union employees and substitute teachers. However, parents should not expect school as usual.
“We’re hopeful that we can find a resolution as soon as possible,” said district spokesman John Sasaki.
Union president Keith Brown said the latest offer does not address the high cost of living that is driving educators out of Oakland.
“For two years, we have been negotiating with the Oakland Unified School District to make our students a priority,” Brown told supporters and strikers Thursday. “It’s time for the district to listen to the community.”
Nearly 600 teachers left their positions at Oakland public schools last year, according to the union, which says the district can’t retain teachers or attract experienced new teachers with such low wages.
Oakland teachers are among the lowest paid in Alameda County according to the teachers union, with salaries ranging from $46,000 to $85,000, but more concerning for many educators is where the rest of the money is spent.
Teachers cited a recent fact-finding report that identified tens of millions in additional funding being allocated to administration and consultants.
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“We can’t get rid of all that and take it and use it for pay,” Sasaki said.
Teachers are also asking for smaller class sizes, a better counselor student ratio and that schools stop getting closed.
The district maintains they simply don’t have enough money to meet the unions demands.
The strike is the second major walk out by teachers in California this year. Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike last month that ended when they settled on a 6 percent raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.
On the eve of the strike, many parents were getting ready to turn their homes into temporary classrooms
“Our families will not cross the picket line,” said Oakland parent Michael Viola. His son is in second grade. He never imagined his home would become the site of a school and his living room would become a classroom.
“I’ve got crafts and books and audio books,” said Viola.
On Wednesday, he was putting together a lesson plan and sharing it with other Oakland parents like Gala King.
“It feels like now is the time to pull together,” said King.
Parents were also coordinating to use available East Bay recreation centers, libraries and gyms for solidarity sites.
“We have a lot of families on board. There are still more we are trying to reach,” King said. “We will be out there on the picket line still, talking to as many families as possible. It’s going to be ongoing.”
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.