Photo: Louis Freedberg/EdSource
Oakland teachers and students rally in support of strike outside City Hall on Feb. 11, 2019.

We, the undersigned principals in Oakland Unified, call upon the community and state of California to support teachers and students by increasing funding to public school districts.

In the coming days, it is highly likely that Oakland teachers will exit school buildings, raise picket signs, and strike for much-deserved higher wages.

Families will have to make difficult decisions about what to do with their children, while school principals will keep buildings open as picket lines stretch outside. Educators and families in Oakland are mired in an impossible situation.

Many of us principals were teachers in Oakland and we all strongly support teachers and their very real need for better working conditions and higher pay.

The salaries of public school teachers in districts across California are grossly inadequate. We do not pay teachers enough to compensate them fairly for their hard work and the expertise required to teach our children.

In Oakland, where the price of housing has risen dramatically in the last few years, the imbalance between teachers’ salaries and their purchasing power is even more stark than in other parts of California. With average monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment running at $2,500, a new teacher with a master’s degree and pre-tax earnings of $47,311 cannot realistically afford housing in Oakland. Nor can they find substantially cheaper housing in surrounding communities.

At the moment, Oakland teachers and the district are at impasse in contract negotiations. Teachers are asking for a 12 percent raise over 3 years while the district, simultaneously facing the need to cut millions from its budget, has offered 5 percent.

Teachers and the staff working in our schools deserve a 12 percent raise and more. If we are going to improve student outcomes, Oakland Unified  needs to retain and attract experienced teaches. Salary is key to doing both. In Oakland, we must tighten our budgets and find every spare dollar to contribute to giving teachers raises. Even then, however, it won’t be enough to bring teacher salaries in line with other professions in the Bay Area that require advanced degrees.

The single biggest obstacle to allowing teachers to be fairly compensated is our state’s inability to prioritize investment in education. According to the National Education Association, California spent only $10,420 per pupil in 2018, which is below the national average of $11,934. In high cost-of-living states that invest in education, the per pupil expenditures were more than double California’s  – $21,118 in New Jersey, $21,731 in Connecticut, and $23,519 in New York. By contrast, California continues to top the nation in prison spending.

If our education budget is a reflection of our values, then we are morally bankrupt when it comes to our children.

The vast majority of funding for public schools in California comes from Sacramento. The majority of solutions to our funding problems also reside in Sacramento. In support of our teachers and students, the principals of Oakland demand our Legislature and governor invest in education, not incrementally but substantially. In the short term, we want to see the Legislature forgive the balance of the 2003 state loan to the district. Further, California’s annual per pupil spending should reflect the high cost of living in our state and rise to be commensurate with states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut.

Only by increasing funding can teachers in Oakland and across the state truly realize the salaries they deserve for providing our students with the experience of a quality education.

In support of teachers and students,

Carmelita Reyes, Co-Principal, Oakland International High School
Cliff Hong, Principal, Roosevelt Middle School
Eyana Spencer, Principal, Manzanita Community School
Aubrey Layne, Principal, Edna Brewer Middle School
Amy Carozza, Principal, Coliseum College Prep Academy
Peter Van Tassel, Principal, Cleveland Elementary School
Cynthia Bagby, Principal, Redwood Heights Elementary School
Staci Ross-Morrison, Principal, Oakland Technical High School
Aryn Bowman, Co-Principal, Life Academy
Eleanor Alderman, Principal, International Community School
Linda Flynn, Principal, Bella Vista Elementary School
Kilian Betlach, Principal, Elmhurst Community Prep
Anita Iverson-Comelo, Principal, Bridges Academy
Donald Bertolo, Principal, Sequoia Elementary School
Kathleen Arnold, Principal, Esperanza Elementary School
Faris Jabbar, Principal, Alliance Academy
Samantha Keller, Principal, RISE Community School
Veronica García Montejano, Co-Principal, Oakland International High School
Minh-Tram Nguyen, Principal, EnCompass Academy
Rachel Quinn, Principal, Glenview Elementary School
Moyra Contreras, Principal, Melrose Leadership Academy
Marcos Garcia, Principal, United For Success Academy
Michelle Deiro, Principal, MetWest High School
Alykhan Boolani, Co-Principal, Life Academy
Jessica Cannon, Principal, Chabot Elementary School
Romy Trigg-Smith, Principal, Greenleaf TK-8 School
William Chavarin, Principal, Castlemont High School
Jocelyn Kelleher, Principal, Crocker Highlands Elementary School
Matin Abdel-Qawi, Principal, Oakland High School
Leroy Gaines, Principal, Acorn Woodland Elementary School
Yolanda Cater, Principal, New Highland Academy
Neha Ummat, Principal, West Oakland Middle School
Jonathan Mayer, Principal, Claremont Middle School
Michelle C. Grant, Principal, East Oakland Pride Elementary
Maria McCormick, Principal, Hillcrest K-8 School
Claire Fisher, Principal, Urban Promise Academy
Sara Green, Principal, Joaquin Miller Elementary School
April Harris-Jackson, Principal, Bret Harte Middle School
Ruby L. De Tie, Principal, Frick Impact Academy
Geoff Vu, Principal, Roots International Academy
Heather Palin, Principal, Emerson Elementary School
Dante Ruiz, Principal, Global Family Elementary School
Maya Taylor, Principal, Westlake Middle School
Tammie Hollis-Prime, Principal, Grass Valley Elementary School
Madeline Noonan, Principal, Think College Now Elementary School
Amie Lamontagne, Principal, Korematsu Discovery Academy
Nicole Pierce-Davis, Co-Principal, Skyline High School
Bianca D’Allesandro, Co-Principal, Skyline High School
Gary Middleton, Principal, Oakland Community Day School
Nikki Williams, Principal, Howard Elementary School
Katherine Carter, Principal, Oakland SOL Middle School
Tom Guajardo, Principal, Burbank Preschool
Caroline Jones, Principal, Early Childhood Education
Giselle F. Hendrie, Principal, Peralta Elementary School
Alesia Eutsler, Principal, Early Childhood Education
Darren L Avent, Principal, Montera Middle School
Denise J. Burroughs, Principal, Carl B. Munck Elementary School
Willie Thompson, Principal, Sojourner Truth and Rudsdale Schools
Lissette Averhoff, Principal, Hoover Elementary School
Rocquel Colbert, Principal, Parker TK-8 School
Tammie Adams, Principal, Horace Mann Elementary School
Tom Skjervheim, Co-Principal, Fremont High School
Rosemary Rivera, Co-Principal, Fremont High School
Sabrina “Bri” Moore, Principal, Madison Park Academy Primary
Lucinda Taylor, Principal, Madison Park Academy Upper
Dennis Guikema, Principal, Kaiser Elementary School
Jarod Scott, Principal, McClymonds High School
Roma Groves-Waters, Principal, Martin Luther King, Jr. & Lafayette Elementary Schools
Diane Lang, Principal, Manzanita SEED Elementary School
Shelley Hawkins-McCray, Principal, Futures/CUES Elementary Schools
Alicia Arenas, Principal, Garfield Elementary School
John Stangl, Principal, Laurel Elementary School
Steven Daubenspeck, Principal, Thornhill Elementary School
Carin Geathers, Principal, Burckhalter Elementary School
Darrell Ross, Principal, Dewey Academy

•••

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the authors. EdSource welcomes diverse points of view on labor disputes in Oakland and elsewhere. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

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  1. Deborah Zenor-Davis 4 months ago4 months ago

    It time tp invest in our kids and keep the prison population down by educating them.

  2. Deprece Perez 4 months ago4 months ago

    I believe everyone who works with kids in the school system deserves a raise. We work hard, even though it looks easy, it's not. We make the difference in that doctor or that new Probation Officer. We are the ones who are around and help them believe in themselves. We live to love, see grow young adults to see them become successful. Teachers, staff, secretary, teachers assistants, school nurses, principals, and every1 who works hard … Read More

    I believe everyone who works with kids in the school system deserves a raise. We work hard, even though it looks easy, it’s not. We make the difference in that doctor or that new Probation Officer. We are the ones who are around and help them believe in themselves. We live to love, see grow young adults to see them become successful. Teachers, staff, secretary, teachers assistants, school nurses, principals, and every1 who works hard everyday to help youth succeed deserve better pay!!!!!

  3. gary yee 4 months ago4 months ago

    I appreciate the thoughtful comments and advocacy of Oakland’s principals and their support for teachers and students.

  4. Angela 4 months ago4 months ago

    I fully support and agreed that Oakland teachers should get a much higher pay in order to keep all with the living cost in Oakland /Bay Area. Housing has raising dramatically for years, unfortunately, salary /income is not catching. This is definitely affecting the quality of teaching environment. When teachers are suffering concerning their qualify of life, how do you expect they can focus fully on your children? OUSD, please deeply consider this issue … Read More

    I fully support and agreed that Oakland teachers should get a much higher pay in order to keep all with the living cost in Oakland /Bay Area. Housing has raising dramatically for years, unfortunately, salary /income is not catching. This is definitely affecting the quality of teaching environment. When teachers are suffering concerning their qualify of life, how do you expect they can focus fully on your children? OUSD, please deeply consider this issue for our Oakland Teachers. The better education today, a better future we have.
    Supports, Supports and Supports!

  5. Renee Bullie 4 months ago4 months ago

    I never received this letter, however I support Oakland Teachers in their fight for increase salary, and lower class size.

  6. Jennifer Bestor 4 months ago4 months ago

    Alameda County's regional cost of living is over 9% higher than the state average. Regional cost parity for all of the ten counties over the state average would cost the General Fund under $700 million. Fully supplementing schools in the four counties with the highest costs would cost the General Fund nothing. Those county controllers are accumulating over half a billion of 'excess' property tax for schools each year -- then handing … Read More

    Alameda County’s regional cost of living is over 9% higher than the state average. Regional cost parity for all of the ten counties over the state average would cost the General Fund under $700 million. Fully supplementing schools in the four counties with the highest costs would cost the General Fund nothing. Those county controllers are accumulating over half a billion of ‘excess’ property tax for schools each year — then handing it off to non-education entities under the Legislature’s direction. 250 words in the Ed Code could change that.

  7. Vicky S Ingrande 4 months ago4 months ago

    As a former parent and employee of the district, I would say that the bigger issue here is not money but how employees are allowed to choose what they will and will not do. I left because I could not be witness to the negligence and lack of regard for students. When you do say something, as I did, it falls on deaf ears.

  8. Ethan Pintard 4 months ago4 months ago

    Oakland has a special assessment fee of at least $495 per parcel voted by the people of Oakland. These Measures are G, G1, and N. Additionally property taxes contribute 0.1776% of the assessed property value to OUSD. As property values increase how are we are unable to provide a livable income to our teachers. I understand some costs are increasing but paying teacher salaries and benefits is one expense … Read More

    Oakland has a special assessment fee of at least $495 per parcel voted by the people of Oakland. These Measures are G, G1, and N. Additionally property taxes contribute 0.1776% of the assessed property value to OUSD. As property values increase how are we are unable to provide a livable income to our teachers. I understand some costs are increasing but paying teacher salaries and benefits is one expense that should not be ignored.

    Additionally the Oakland Unified School District owns 157 parcels in the city of Oakland. What is the school district doing with its excess properties? For example 900 High Street appears to be vacant. Maybe it is time to sell these properties to a private investor or an non profit that will utilize these properties in a better capacity than OUSD. With such valuable assets how can the Oakland Unified School District threaten to cut $30 million dollars in its budget.

    Lastly please don’t forget we are in the backyard of Silicon Valley. Where is OUSD’s fundraising team to seek grants from our high tech tech neighbors. I don’t want to pretend that none of these options have not been discussed but it seems like our district has an issue with transparency. Please help our teachers help the future of Oakland.

    Regards,

    Ethan Pintard
    Oakland parent

  9. Ben Visnick 4 months ago4 months ago

    Part of the problem in OUSD is the large number of co-principals and vice principals in our schools.

    Oakland has too many administrators at all levels.

    We must transfer them to the classroom to lower class size!

    Ben Visnick
    Past President OEA
    Teacher Substitute

    Replies

    • Lilian Koenig 3 months ago3 months ago

      It is frustrating that a substitute teacher has to fight for unemployment benefits. We should be entitled to receive them during a recess, school vacation, and a block of summer when school is out for 6 weeks. It is a constant battle to apply through Employment Development Department.

  10. DESIREE MILES-Allendale Elementary School 4 months ago4 months ago

    Desiree Miles, Principal at Allendale Elementary, signs in support our teachers and students!

    Replies

    • DESIREE MILES 4 months ago4 months ago

      Desiree Miles, principal at Allendale Elementary, signs in support of our teachers and students!

  11. Zarina Ahmad, Principal at Piedmont Avenue 4 months ago4 months ago

    I sign the letter in support of teachers and students!

    Replies

    • Louis Segal 4 months ago4 months ago

      Thank you, Principal Ahmad for supporting your teachers.