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Oakland teachers reach tentative deal with school district after 10-day strike

The union representing nearly 3,000 teachers said an end to a walkout that's lasted more than a week may be in sight.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Oakland’s teachers union said it has reached a tentative contract deal with the city school district, after being on strike at schools across the city since May 4. 

The Oakland Education Association, representing nearly 3,000 teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses and substitutes, has been on strike for more than a week, saying it would continue until an agreement is reached with Oakland Unified School District. The union’s contract with the district ended this past October. 

Union members accused the district of unfair labor practices and negotiating in bad faith by coming to bargaining sessions unprepared and without meaningful counterproposals. In March, the union filed an unfair labor practice claim with the California Public Employee Relations Board, which oversees negotiations between public agencies and employees. 

The district said it offered a retroactive 10% raise for some union members and raises of 13 – 22% for TK-12 teachers, with a one-time $5,000 bonus.

But the union has asked for raises of about 23% to put their pay in line with median teacher pay in Alameda County. The union has also proposed several “common good” demands, like creating shared leadership structures in schools, fully implementing a Reparations for Black Students policy, engaging with the community for at least a year before closing schools, and providing housing and transportation for unhoused students.

Both sides met each day last week, with negotiations sometimes lasting past midnight as disagreements over compensation continued. While the strike went on, schools remained opened for students who needed to attend to finish material or take advanced placement tests. State and federally funded after-school programs remained open and school meals continued to be served. The district has continued to post job openings for different educator and instructor positions that are currently hiring, on its Twitter account each day.

After about 10 days, Oakland teachers' union announced late Sunday that the bargaining team has reached a tentative agreement, for their bargaining items and a fair pay deal. The tentative agreement is now up for a vote by union members. 

"We're not just fighting for teachers," Ismael Armendariz, union president and special education teacher, said in a Twitter statement Monday.

"I went to public schools and I had family members who didn't survive. We all did. And I think we are teachers because that's what we want to do. We want to change the system. I lived through the system. We want to do better for everybody."

Oakland Unified School District's Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell speaks in Oakland, Calif. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)
Chief Governance Officer Josh Daniels discusses a deal with the teachers' union in Oakland, Calif. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a press conference Monday that it had reached a historic deal with the union. It includes a 10% retroactive raise to November 2022 and one-time $5,000 stipends, along with 11 – 23% raises; more librarians, counselors, nurses and performing arts teachers; increased elementary prep time; payment by class size and support for special education services.

“We realize we’re not there yet, and this is one crucial step toward getting there,” Johnson-Trammell said.

The superintendent said the district will have more budgetary concerns to balance while facing the same declining enrollment and increased need for behavioral health support as the rest of the state’s public schools.

“Mental health isn’t an add-on, it is an absolute necessity given what we’re seeing students bringing into the classroom,” she said. “It’s way too much for educators on their own to handle.”

All regular instruction resumes Tuesday. Asked about the effects of the strike on students, High School Network Superintendent Vanessa Sifuentes said there should not be any additional days added to the calendar and students will have support to finish all of their academic school work. Several commencement ceremonies will be affected, but she said that she expects all graduations will take place, starting with Oakland High School on May 22. 

Chief Governance Officer Josh Daniels said a form on the union agreement must be submitted to the county, after which it must be returned signed to get approval. The deal includes creating five special assignment teacher positions for three years, for a new program to promote Black student success, he said. 

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Categories / Education, Employment, Regional

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