CALIFORNIA – An Oakland, California, teachers’ union announced Saturday that a strike will begin on Feb. 21 after failing to reach an agreement with the school district over increased pay and smaller class sizes.
Oakland Educators Association (OEA) said teachers were seeking a 12 percent raise over three years to help keep educators in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), according to a Saturday press statement.
“We agree that our teachers deserve to be paid more,” OUSD spokesman John Sasaki said, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday. “It’s just a matter of how much can we pay, given our financial reality.”
The district has suffered from financial woes for awhile, however. California loaned OUSD $100 million in emergency funds — the largest at the time — after gathering a $37 million deficit in 2003. The district managed to get into a $30 million deficit in 2017, according to the Chronicle.
Generous teacher pay raises, decreasing enrollment and hefty special education costs contributed to the financial crisis in the district.
The district has been caught for misusing funds like paying for parking and legal fees, the Chronicle reported.
The union said they have been negotiating for two years, according to OEA’s news release.
“The only option that Oakland teachers, parents and students have left to win the schools Oakland students truly deserve, and to take control of our school district back from the control of billionaire campaign donors, is for the 3,000 members of the Oakland Education Association to go on strike,” OEA President Keith Brown said in a statement.
An entry-level teacher with only a bachelor’s degree can earn around $47,000 a year. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 90 graduate level credits can start earning $55,000 and bring in as much as $84,000 annually after working for 31 years as a certified teacher, according to OUSD data.
Brown added that 18 percent of teachers left each year due to increasing housing costs, the Chronicle reported.
The median home value in Oakland is $735,000 and is expected to increase by nearly 8 percent over the next year, according to Zillow. The median monthly rent price was a little over $3,000.
OUSD does spend, however, $13,500 for full health care benefits for educators and their families, according to the Chronicle.
The district contacted OEA for renegotiation Saturday but did not hear back, according to the district’s press release.
Up to 150 administrative and support employees could be laid off in order for the district to save $21.7 million, the newspaper reported.
OUSD is planning to hire substitute teachers in the event of a strike, which could affect 36,000 students.
The northern California city’s teacher strike follows after Los Angeles teachers walked out of classes in January. Their strike resulted in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) agreeing to a 6 percent raise for teachers and “meaningful” class size reductions.
The Los Angeles deal, however, could bankrupt the system already running on a $500 million deficit, according to The Associated Press.
OEA and OUSD did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.