Oakland teachers stage walkout over ongoing contract negotiations
OAKLAND -- Teachers in Oakland walked off the job Friday morning at more than a dozen schools and staged a march to demand better pay.
Teachers claim the Oakland Unified School District has been engaging in "bad faith bargaining." In an attempt to pressure administrators, they are walking out at 14 middle and high schools.
The walkout began at 7:30 a.m. Shortly after that time outside Skyline High School, a handful of teachers could be seen picketing with signs. The walkout is apparently unauthorized by the teachers union.
Educators are seeking a nearly 23 percent raise over four years that would bring their pay to the median wage for teachers in Alameda County.
The district has been given a 13 percent increase in state funding, laid off 100 employees and added 37 top administrative positions, Oakland Technical High School teacher Ellen Dahlke said.
She said the district has overspent $6.7 million on outside consulting fees.
"The district is not broke," Dahlke said. "It is not prioritizing teacher compensation."
Teachers said the demonstration is to illustrate the decades-long disinvestment by OUSD and that the district has failed to keep up their pay with neighboring districts for years.
"That's a huge concern. I mean teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions," said high school history teacher Jordan Blumberg-Long. "We have teacher vacancies across the district. When there's no teachers to teach, students aren't learning."
Sadly, students are caught in the middle.
Harley Poston has been a social science teacher at Skyline High School for about six years. He says pay is the fundamental issue here, but says that's just a fraction of their demands.
They want the district to take a holistic look at student learning and the working conditions of teachers. He says the district recently cut necessary positions that help students learn.
"The district is cutting a hundred plus or dozens of classified positions – dozens of student-support positions – making every single educator's job more difficult and draining support and impacting student learning in the short-term and long run," he explained.
Teachers followed the walkout with a march to a rally scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Frank Ogawa Plaza at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland.
All of the affected schools remained open during the walkout.
The Oakland Unified School District released the following statement in regards to the walkout:
"Some members of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) decided to hold a one-day strike on Friday, March 24 at a number of middle and high schools across Oakland Unified School District. The Oakland Education Association (OEA) stated, in writing, that this strike was not sanctioned by OEA. The District kept all schools open, and students were encouraged to attend classes. Unfortunately, the action did keep some students out of school, and adversely impacted student access to instruction at some schools. The District will continue to negotiate in good faith with OEA."
Justin Andrews contributed to this story.
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