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Oakland Teachers And Staff Participate In 'Sick Out'

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Teachers and support staff from across the Oakland Unified School District on Friday joined together for a one-day "sick out" to protest the stalemate in ongoing contract negotiations for the teachers' union.

The work action being called "A Day without Educators" was significantly impacting Oakland schools on Friday and may be giving a small preview of how an actual open-ended strike like the one currently being held by Los Angeles teachers would affect the OUSD.

Teachers and staff said the demonstration was to call for smaller class sizes and competitive wages that will allow them us to keep working with families and students in the city they love.

Educators claim the Oakland Unified School District has under invested in them and in their students.

"We're here for our students and that's the truth. No one's out here because they're greedy or they want something," said Oakland International High School teacher Susan Keen. "We're all here because we believe our students deserve the best."

Friday's sick out isn't a union sanctioned event. It also isn't the first one Oakland teachers have held. In December, hundreds of educators called out of work in response to negotiations with the district. They want higher wages, smaller class sizes and more support staff.

The district says it plans to up their pay, but going into a year where they could cut as much as $30 million, the belt-tightening will only allow so much.

"It's going to hurt. It's going to hurt a lot. And there are going to be issues, possibly in our schools," said OUSD spokesman John Sasaki. "We're doing everything that we can. There are financial realities in the district though, because we have to make budget cuts currently -- even setting aside any possible raise that the teachers get -- so there are things we are dealing with that are basically outside of our control."

Teachers counter that the district has the funds, but chooses to spend it in questionable ways.

"They have the money. they just don't put it in the right places," said 7th grade science teacher Paul Antony-Levine. "We spend more on administrators and consultants than any other district in the Bay Area and less on teachers than any other district in the Bay Area. So obviously someone can do the math. Maybe we just need to hire more math teachers."

The impasse could end up costing the district as well. The Los Angeles teachers' strike has already cost that school district $97 million. Friday's demonstration is a way to show the district what an official strike would be like, something teachers will possibly vote on next month.

"Well, we certainly hope that they don't strike. It's so disruptive to their lives, our students and our families," said Sasaki. "We are going to make sure we do everything that we can to make sure that doesn't happen."

Before the December sick out, the school district said teachers could face possible disciplinary action for participating. The average salary for an Oakland Unified School District teacher is $46,570.

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