CALIFORNIA – Oakland, California teachers walked out of a school district with more than 36,000 students Thursday to protest what they believe to be unlivable salaries.
An entry-level teacher with only a bachelor’s degree can earn around $47,000 a year in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). 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. The median monthly rent price is a little more than $3,000 and the median housing value price is $735,000.
It is unclear how many teachers will be at the picket lines, but the Oakland Educators Association (OEA) has around 3,000 union members.
Around 75 percent of OUSD students qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to CNN.
The school district offered an 8.5 percent salary raise package for four years Wednesday to avoid a strike, according to ABC 7. But OEA turned down the offer because they wanted a 12 percent raise over three years.
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Arbitrator Najeeb Khoury said the 8.5 percent offer would “not keep pace with inflation,” CNN reported. He added that OUSD would also have a difficult time passing a 12 percent raise as the district is in “a structural deficit.”
The district has suffered financially for a while, however. California loaned OUSD $100 million in emergency funds, the largest at the time, after gathering a $37 million deficit in 2003. OUSD also managed to get into a $30 million deficit in 2017, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
OUSD also spends money on providing free dinners for students, dental clinics for needy children and washer and dryers for struggling families, according to CNN.
“We have done a lot more for our kids than other school districts,” OUSD spokesman John Sasaki said, CNN reported. “A lot of that is because in the city of Oakland, there’s a lot more need.”
Oakland, like other Bay Area and Silicon Valley cities in California, is struggling to keep up with soaring living costs due to tech companies. San Francisco is planning to develop more than 100 housing units for teachers school district owned land, according to an April 2018 news release from the city and county of San Francisco.
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) suffers from a similar financial dissolve after the district began giving eligible employees, retirees and their dependents free health care “without requiring them to contribute to the cost,” in the late 1960s. Health benefits for retired employees is estimated to cost LAUSD $314 million in 2019, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
LAUSD teachers went on strike in January for smaller class sizes and increased pay and to oppose the conversion of public schools into charter ones. The district was able to make a deal with the United Teachers Los Angeles union, but the agreement could bankrupt the system already running on a $500 million deficit.
The Oakland strike was scheduled to start at 6 a.m. Thursday. Teachers reportedly organized “solidarity schools” where kids would be supervised. The purpose was to provide an option for parents who do not want their children crossing picket lines, ABC 7 reported.
OUSD will remain open. Substitute teachers are reportedly getting paid $300 a day and do not need state teaching credentials, KCBSRadio political reporter Doug Sovern tweeted Wednesday.
OEA and OUSD did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.