Speaking at Oakland Education Association (OEA) press conference last Friday (L to R) are: Liz Ortega Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council (AFL-CIO), Keith D. Brown OEA President and Dennis Nelson, OEA Bargaining Chair
Oakland educators say they have reached a “bargaining showdown” with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) as contract negotiations enter their second year.
The Oakland Education Association (OEA), along with parent, labor and student supporters, held a news conference last Friday at the end of the first day of state-assisted mediation, a process designed to kick-start the negotiating process.
Mediation is the second-to-last step before a potential district-wide strike, according to the union. Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2017.
“The school board has voted again and again to strip resources from our students in order to support a budget bloated with central office administrators and private vendors,” said Oakland Education Association (OEA) President Keith Brown, a Bret Harte Middle School teacher.
“This has created a crisis in Oakland. We are here to put students at the center of OUSD by settling a contract that reinvests in our kids and retains quality educators. The time to make students and quality schools a priority again is now.”
“Our teachers cannot afford a home…or an apartment,” said Brown. “Many are one paycheck away from homelessness.”
OEA bargaining chair Dennis Nelson said the mediators are, at present, not meeting together with the district and union bargaining teams, but are “ferrying back and forth between the parties.”
Two more mediating sessions are scheduled this month: Sept. 10 and Sept. 26.
“The mediators recognize that we are quite a ways apart,” said Nelson. “We’re going to have to be very creative how we look at this.”
He said that over a period of years, the school district has hired a number of pro-charter school administrators, including graduates of billionaire Eli Broad’s superintendent training academy, who believe that the way to improve schools is to fund programs outside of the classroom.
“We need to put the money back where it belongs, where student achievement occurs, for things like books and supplies and salaries for teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists and speech therapists,” Nelson said.
Parent activist Mona Lisa Traviño said parents and community members stand with the teachers.
“OUSD schools cannot be improved without prioritizing the wellbeing of OUSD teachers,” she said. “Each year we have (hundreds of) vacancies, and our children are being supervised by substitute teachers.”
A recent graduate of Oakland High School Gabrielle Henry said when she was a freshman, her biology teacher went out on maternity leave, and she ended up having 11 substitutes for the rest of the year.
“It should not take 11 substitutes and my principal to teach me (for the year). Most of the students failed the that course.”
The Oakland Post contacted OUSD for a comment but received no reply.