OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Oakland teachers voted Sunday afternoon to accept a tentative contract deal, effectively ending the strike and putting teachers back in classrooms on Monday.
More than 3,000 teachers went to the Paramount Theater in Oakland to discuss and vote on the newly proposed contract. The Oakland Education Association, the union representing the teachers, announced the results around 8:00 p.m. Sunday evening.
70 percent of teachers voted; 64 percent voted “yes” for the 2017-2018 contract term and 58 percent voted “yes” for the 2020-2021 contract term.
“We look forward to being in our classrooms again after having to strike to bring our Oakland students some of the resources and supports they should have had in the first place,” said OEA President Keith Brown in a statement.
“This victory, accomplished through our collective strength on the picket lines with Oakland parents and students, sends the message that educators will no longer let this school district starve our neighborhood schools of resources. Our fight is not over, though. Oakland educators spoke clearly today at our ratification vote that this agreement will not be the end of our struggle, and we will continue to fight in Oakland and Sacramento for the schools our students deserve.”
On Friday, the Oakland Unified School District and the teacher’s union reached a tentative deal that includes an 11 percent pay raise for teachers over three years and a one time 3-percent bonus once the new contract is ratified. It also includes provisions to cut class sizes and puts a hold on school closures for 5 months.
OEA said the contract also won a reduction in caseloads for counselors, psychologists and resource specialists.
Oakland High School English teacher Grace Bigler brought a sign she made to this afternoon’s vote to urge her fellow teachers to wait for a better deal.
“It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for us as teachers. It’s not good enough for us and our community,” said Bigler. She said the deal needs to do more to guarantee funding for enrichment programs and support staff.
Sixth grade teacher Tim Marshall said he voted in favor of the new contract.
“It’s not everything that we hoped for. It’s not enough to restore a lot of the damage that the district has done, but it’s a good first step,” said Marshall. He said he hopes to use the momentum from the strike to continue discussions with OUSD.
“Either way, we’re going to continue organizing for the schools our students deserve. I think this is pretty much the best we can do right now under these circumstances. OUSD has made a gigantic hole and we’re trying to dig out of it,” said Marshall.
Jennifer Brouhard, a teacher in the district for 21 years and an OEA board member, reiterated that the fight is not over for teachers.
“The contract isn’t the end-all and be-all and I think the struggle continues to build,” she said.
It was an emotional night for history teacher Jhunehl Fortaleza, who’s been teaching in the district for 5 years making $50,000 per year.
“I was born and raised in Oakland, I work three jobs just to stay here. I feel very loyal to this city,” she said.
She also said lowering class sizes by one student doesn’t lighten her load of 32 students by much and that, while a good start, the 11 percent raise spread out is still making it tough.
“I’m barely keeping on right now, and having a 2 percent raise this year and a 3 percent bonus that barely covers the time that we were on strike isn’t going to do anything,” she said.
Teachers said the strike was an important lesson for students.
“If you don’t believe that something is right or somebody is not treating you fairly, you have the right to advocate for yourself, and if we back down, then it tells our students, especially in the area I teach in, that they can back down,” said Celetta Hunter, who is an English teacher at Castlemont High School.
OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Tramell said she is “grateful” that the strike has come to an end.
“Speaking as the Superintendent, a parent of OUSD students, and a former teacher and principal in the District, our students are always my top priority and the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. I’m happy that students will return to school tomorrow, back into the safe, supportive learning environments created by our dedicated teachers,” she said in a statement.
“While there is still healing to come, I know we will all work together to welcome our students and families back to school.”
The OUSD Board is expected to meet Monday to talk about how to fund the approved agreement.