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Oakland Parents, School District Brace For Teachers Strike

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Oakland Unified School District officials and union representatives made a last-minute effort Wednesday to avoid Thursday's strike, but negotiators were unable to reach a new deal for teachers.

Teachers at Skyline High School provided a sneak preview of Thursdays planned strike, holding a noisy demonstration in front of their school Wednesday afternoon. Dozens of teachers left their classrooms for the last time before the imminent strike.

ALSO READ: Parents' Survival Guide For Oakland Teachers Strike

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.

But district officials argue the majority of that money is restricted funding.

"Which means we can't get rid of all that and take it and use it for pay," explained OUSD spokesperson John Sasaki.

Teachers are asking for a 12 percent raise over three years. The district initially offered a 5 percent raise, then countered Wednesday with a last-minute offer of a 7 percent raise with a 1.5 percent bonus.

Teachers are also asking for smaller class sizes,  a better counselor student ratio and that our schools stop getting closed.

The district maintains they simply don't have enough money to meet the unions demands.

On the eve of the first major teachers strike in Oakland in over two decades, many parents are 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 are 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."

Other parents like Ellie Gladstone are working on another priority: meals.

"It's a city wide effort to make sure our kids don't have to cross a picket line to go to school, which is probably not the safest place during the strike in order to get a meal they rely on," said Gladstone.

Liz Suk packed and sorted donated snacks and supplies for students at Solidarity Schools in East Oakland.

"We want to be able to provide them with food that they can have a meal for the day," she said.

Families gathering Wednesday evening at the offices of the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN) to put together snacks for students during the strike.

Earlier Wednesday, dozens of principals from the Oakland Unified School District headed to the state capitol to push for more education funding.

The principals carpooled from a coffee shop in Oakland for the drive. Dressed in red and fully caffeinated, the group of principals from Oakland Unified schools prepped for a road trip to the Capitol with a very important lesson plan in mind: educating the state's leaders about what they need and why.

The principals' first appointment was with the top educator himself, Tony Thurmond, the State Superintendent of Public instruction. At a statewide education summit Wednesday, he addressed educators.

"Let it start now that every young person, every young person, has access to early education and that we do what we need to do on these ballot measures in 2020, so that we can say that we go from 45th in the nation per pupil spending to what our kids deserve: number one," said Thurmond.

That sentiment received a round of applause, but whether it will be enough has yet to be seen.

While principals will be at school to take care of the kids who show up, Bridges Academy principal Anita Iverson-Comelo told KPIX that they still are behind the striking teachers.

"We will be in the schools and the classrooms, because there are families who will not be able to keep their kids home. But in spirit, we will be with our teachers, because we know they need more," said Iverson-Comelo.

It's unclear how long the strike will last. Both the teachers union and the school district have scheduled another bargaining session for Friday morning, according to Sasaki.

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