Teachers demonstrate for a new contract in front of Claremont Middle School.
Teachers picketed at most Oakland public schools on November 15 after months of bargaining and six sessions with an outside mediator failed to break the deadlock in negotiations between the Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Education Association (OEA).
The two sides will soon move into the statutory process of fact-finding, bringing Oakland a step closer to a potential teachers’ strike.
“Unfortunately, we did not settle our contract through the mediation process. The reality is that Oakland has a teacher retention crisis, and our students are suffering because of it,” said OEA 1st Vice President Ismael Amendariz.
“Across this city, there are unacceptable learning conditions, and we as teachers have the responsibility to fight for our students,” he said.
According to the union, a growing teacher shortage and “retention crisis” mean that there were 571 teacher vacancies posted in the 2017-2018 school year.
Forty of those positions are still vacant, and there are many students across the district who are in classrooms with teachers with emergency credentials, said the union in a media release.
“We are uniting for Oakland’s kids to say our most vulnerable students will no longer be under-served,” said Keith Brown, president of OEA. “We unite to make our students the priority, not administrators and consultants. We are fighting to end Oakland’s teacher crisis and to bring stability for our students through district investments in a living wage, lower class size, and increased student supports.”
The teachers are asking for a 12 percent raise over three years, and the district has responded so far with barely 2 percent, according to the union.
“Our students also need smaller class sizes so they can receive more one-on-one attention and adequate resources so that they can succeed. That is what this contract fight is about,” said Bethany Meyer, Inclusion Specialist at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School.
The teachers’ contract proposal seeks to prioritize school sites with more students who are low-income and English Language Learners.
“We know that inequity exists in our district. Students who live in the Oakland hills areas are getting a different educational experience than students in flatland schools. This contract is the one tool we have to fight that inequity,” said Becca Rozo, teacher at Coliseum College Prep Academy.