On March 3, the Oakland teacher’s strike ended after seven days with the ratification of a new contract between the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD).
“We look forward to being in our classrooms again after having to strike to bring our Oakland students some of the resources and support they should have had in the first place,” OEA President Keith Brown said in a statement.
OEA made gains in their demands for competitive wages, increased student resources, such as guidance counselors and nurses, and smaller class sizes but contract negotiations failed to secure a moratorium on school closures. Out of the 70 percent of union members that voted, 64 percent were in favor of the 2017–18 contract term and then 58 percent for the 2020-2021 contract term.
Most remarkably, educators are getting an 11 percent raise over four years and a three percent bonus. Prior to the demonstrations, OUSD had offered a seven percent raise over three years and a 1.5 percent retroactive bonus in response to OEA demands for a 12 percent retroactive raise, from 2017 to 2020.
Substitute teachers are also getting a salary increase and a retention bonus after 60 days.
The increase in pay is anticipated to help stabilize teacher retention due to the increased cost of living in the Bay Area that has made it difficult for teachers to remain in their districts and or professions.
OUSD agreed to hire more guidance counselors, psychologists and special education teachers. In addition, nurses will receive a nine percent raise and $10,000 bonuses in the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years to help retain and attract more of them.
Class sizes are going to decrease by only one or two students, depending on how high-need the school is over the next two years. In contrast, OEA had requested reducing each classroom by two students over two years. Then, in schools where more than 80 percent of the students live below the poverty line, there would be an additional class size reduction of two students.
Furthermore, OUSD declined to cancel plans to close as many as 24 low-income schools, but did agree to postpone some of the closures and push for a statewide suspension on charter schools.
“I would categorize it as a complete sell-out of teachers,” Oakland teacher Evan Hudson said to ABC 7 News. “It doesn’t address one of the worse issues which is the closing of 24 public schools around Oakland.”
The concern over balancing student size and allocating appropriate resources appears to be the next focus of the union.
“Put a pause on school closures for a five month pause,” Brown said to ABC 7 News. “We are going to look into creating a committee who can bring multiple stakeholders but we did want much more.”
OUSD still needs to cut $30 million to mitigate a reported multimillion dollar deficit and balance their budget.
For more information about the details behind the Oakland teacher’s strike, read the previously published piece “Thousands march as Oakland teachers go on strike.”