Oakland principals support teachers but call for more state and local funds

February 18, 2019

Oakland teachers and students rally in support of strike outside City Hall on Feb. 11, 2019.

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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

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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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