Oakland Unified discloses improved contract offer after protesters shut down board meeting

February 27, 2019

Oakland Unified teachers and their supporters formed a picket line surrounding La Escuelita Elementary School on Feb. 27, preventing a school board meeting from taking place.

The Oakland teachers’ union strike will enter its sixth day on Thursday, despite an increased salary offer from the district on Monday.

The district disclosed its offer after picketers Wednesday encircled the building where the school board was supposed to meet and blocked board members from entering. 

The board was expected to vote on $20.2 million in cuts to balance its 2019-20 budget.

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“Continuing to hold the meeting would be irresponsible and would jeopardize the ability to settle a fair contract for our students,” said Chaz Garcia, second vice president of the Oakland Education Association during the protest.

Picketers marching in the rain blocked the entrance to a parking lot behind La Escuelita School, where board meetings are held, preventing some board members from getting inside the building in time for a 4 p.m. closed session followed by public meetings.

About a half-hour later, the district released a statement disclosing its latest offer, which had not previously been made public by either side because of ongoing negotiations.

The district increased it salary offer on Monday to an 8 percent raise over four years and a 2 percent bonus, for a total 10 percent increase. Its previous offer was a 7 percent raise over three years with a retroactive 1.5 percent bonus.

The union is demanding 12 percent over three years along with smaller class sizes; increased counselors, nurses and librarians; and an end to the district’s plan to close or consolidate up to 24 schools over the next five years.

“We are disheartened by tactics that directly interfere with the district’s ability to give the teachers a raise and get students and teachers back into classrooms,” the district statement said.

“Collectively, we could end this strike now,” the statement continued. “We look forward to receiving a new proposal from OEA and remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement soon.

The union claims that the district has a budget surplus this year, plus added state and federal funding, and should hold off making any cuts.

“Taking a clumsy budget ax to important programs for our schools and our students would push us farther away, not closer, to a settlement,” said Keith Brown, union president, in a statement. “We’re going to continue to negotiate for a fair agreement, so we can return to our schools and the students we love.”

The district is losing about a million dollars for every day of the strike. Those are funds that could help fund a contract settlement.

The board expected to vote on budget cuts to meet a March 1 deadline to get its plan to the Alameda County Office of Education and the state in order to receive a possible bailout in 2019-20 that would cover a portion of its deficit. And it must vote on layoffs in order to send out notices to affected staff members by the March 15 deadline.

Oakland Unified spokesman John Sasaki said he anticipated a special meeting would be scheduled soon and that the district would still meet its deadlines.

Editor’s Note: As a special project, EdSource is tracking developments this year in the Oakland Unified and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts as a way to illustrate some of the most urgent challenges facing many urban districts in California. West Contra Costa Unified includes Richmond, El Cerrito and several other East Bay communities.

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