“We brought the district to its knees,” Manny Lopez, a third-grade teacher at Fruitvale’s Global Family School told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The details of the deal are not final. But the teachers' union, the Oakland Education Association, which was seeking a 12% raise over three years, would receive an 11% raise over four years and a one-time bonus of 3%. Classroom sizes for special-needs teachers would cap out at one less student, and the district would hire more support staff such as nurses, counselors, and speech pathologists. While the union has yet to ratify this deal, the Oakland Unified School district said, “The agreement is a big win for our teachers, students and community,” in a Friday statement.
Other parts of the deal included a moratorium on school closings for five months, according to Aimee Eng, the board president, who also plans to introduce a moratorium on building more charter schools. This has been a particularly hard-fought battle since school closures are usually the result of pressure from outside agencies looking to capitalize on the OUSD’s financial woes and open charter schools.
Teachers decry charter schools as a financial burden on the district, leading to an annual loss in some $57 million, according to The Washington Post. Other parents and school advocates complain that charter schools operate using public resources but little accountability or oversight since they are privately run, the Oakland Post reports.
“This policy is heavily backed by charter school groups because it makes way for more charter school growth,” parent Mona Lisa Treviño, told the Oakland Post in November. “Our neighborhood public schools need to be protected because they are lifelines in our community, and they are democratically run. Parents and teachers are not going to allow them to be closed.”
95 percent of the 3,000 teachers in Oakland took part in the strike, and 97 percent of students stayed home from school since the strike began on February 21.
Teachers in nearby districts – including San Francisco – are eyeing potential action themselves. On Thursday, teachers from across the Bay planned a “sickout” and joined the picket lines in Oakland in solidarity with their colleagues. Like their counterparts in Oakland, teachers in San Francisco face soaring living costs, overcrowded classrooms, and budget cuts to much needed services and support staff. In 2017, the San Francisco Unified School District reached a deal with striking teachers to receive an 11% pay raise and one-time bonus, but teachers still struggle to find affordable housing near their schools and face oversized classrooms on top of budget cuts.
The SFUSD received a $26 million boost to its budget for this school year. But as SF Weekly reported last June, the increased budget and negotiated raise for teachers came with a 5 percent reduction in services.
Though Oakland teachers consider the deal a win, the union still has to ratify it when they next meet on Sunday. Tania Kappner, an Oakland Tech history teacher and executive on the union board, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We could do so much better. This strike is so strong. We want a real discussion, not a rush-through.”
Photo: Oakland Education Association/Facebook