OUSD educators walk out in wildcat strike action

A sign at a rally March 24, 2023, in Oakland, Calif. for higher teacher pay in the Oakland Unified School District where the average salary is 22 percent below median teacher pay in the county (Keith Burbank/Bay City News)

Educators at 14 schools in the Oakland Unified School District walked out Friday morning, mainly over pay, a teacher and spokesperson for the educators said.

Educators are seeking a nearly 23 percent raise over four years that would bring their pay to the median wage for teachers in Alameda County. The district has been given a 13 percent increase in state funding, laid off 100 employees, and added 37 top administrative positions, Oakland Technical High School teacher Ellen Dahlke said. She said the district has overspent $6.7 million on outside consulting fees.

“The district is not broke,” Dahlke said. “It is not prioritizing teacher compensation.”

Teachers have also made requests for other concessions that would address class sizes and, among other things, provide resources for newcomers, Dahlke said.

District officials have not responded at all in negotiations to that proposal, Dahlke said. But the main issue is pay, because higher pay provides an incentive for teachers to remain at Oakland Unified School District schools.

More than one teacher at the rally cited retention as a problem, which ultimately affects the quality of education students get, teachers said.

“The kids are the ones on the receiving end of this,” Dahlke said.

Teachers would accept a compromise if it came close to the 23 percent raise for which they’re asking, said Nick Palmquist, a teacher who has been at MetWest High School for nine years and was an organizer of Friday’s rally. “We don’t solve the problem if we don’t get close to that,” Palmquist said.

District officials said Monday that a final salary agreement will depend on revisions to the salary schedule and changes in staffing. According to the district, the Oakland Education Association, the teachers’ union, is proposing staffing increases that would cost the district $250 million a year. That’s about 50 percent of the district’s annual budget.

Officials with the district issued a statement Friday afternoon about the walkout, saying, “The District kept all schools open, and students were encouraged to attend classes. Unfortunately, the action did keep some students out of school, and adversely impacted student access to instruction at some schools.”

District officials said they “will continue to negotiate in good faith with OEA.”

The walkout Friday was not a union-authorized action.

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