California Educator

MAY 2010

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Oakland teachers’ one-day strike yields contract LEFT: Oakland Education Association members hold a one- day strike April 29. INSET: CTA Board member Eric Heins speaks to the crowd at a noon rally. derstands the sacrifices teachers make. “Oakland has the money. It’s just a matter of them prioritiz- ing where the money goes.” As three television news trucks mobilized their community with a successful one-day strike April 29 that motivated the school dis- trict to return to the bargaining table after it had just imposed its final contract offer of no raises for teachers through 2012. “We would rather be teaching F than striking, but we needed to show the district how serious our concerns are,” said Betty Olson- Jones, president of the 2,800-mem- ber Oakland Education Associa- tion (OEA). “A quality public edu- cation is a civil right. The future of this district is in doubt and teach- ers had to take a stand for our stu- dents and our community.” If it holds up, the district’s un- fair imposed contract would sharply increase class sizes and on consultants and bureaucracy, instead of on reducing class sizes and retaining educators. Contract talks re- ed up with being the lowest- paid educators in Alameda County, Oakland educators possibly e limi- nate the adult ed- ucation program. Oakland teach- ers would receive a mere 1.75 per- cent raise over an eight-year pe- riod from 2004 to 2012. Starting pay for educators in Oakland is about $39,000, co mpared t o $50,000 in San Francisco. The 38,000-student district is supervised by a state-appointed trustee and one of the highest- paid superintendents in Alame- da County. Oakland teachers are exasperated because of the reces- sion and state cuts taking their toll, and because the district re- ceives much more than the aver- age district in per-pupil funding, yet spends far less on teachers. This creates a teacher turnover rate of about 20 percent. Oakland teachers also want the district to stop spending on outside contractors at a ra te twice that of the average school district, and to cease spending voter-approved parcel tax funds LEFT: Betty Olson-Jones, president of the 2,800-member Oakland Education Association, rallies members at the successful one-day strike. 28 California Educator | MAY 2010 sumed May 13, a nd five more dates were scheduled, jump-starting negotia- tions that broke off in December after almost two years of frustrating meetings. As painful as the strike was for OEA members, 91 percent of them walked picket lines and stayed out of their classrooms. The week after the strike, a strong ma- jority of Oakland educators af- firmed their solidarity by voting to authorize their leaders to call an- other strike, if necessary. “I think the strike was the right thing to do, because Oakland needs to become more competi- tive to retain its quality teachers,” said Peter Mates, an Alameda County Teacher of the Year who was also picket line captain at his Bret Harte Middle School. “Our parents were very supportive.” To show solidarity with teach- ers, parent Kristin Miller-Nicholas kept her two daughters out of class at Joaquin Miller Elementary and spent the morning on the picket line with her school’s educators. “Our teachers are under-respected and underpaid,” she said, calling the strike “a statement that needs to be made.” Her parents were teachers in Michigan, so she un- covered predawn picketing at Oakland High S chool, Amy Wilder, a special education teach- er, tried to keep warm. She was there to “demonstrate to my stu- dents that their education matters to me,” and to tell the district that it “needs to shift its priorities to fund our students’ education ap- propriately.” Eleanor Alderman, a teacher at ACORN Woodland Elementary, walked her picket line and said the stress of having to hold three jobs to pay her mortgage is hard on her. Born and raised in Oakland, she works weekends as a waitress in Berkeley and as a nanny for a cou- ple in Oakland — in addition to full-time teaching. “I absolutely believe in living in the city that you teach in,” said Al- derman. “There’s no way I could survive on just my teacher salary and pay my mortgage.” CTA B oard member Er ic Heins, a teacher in nearby Pitts- burg Unified, pledged the resourc- es of CTA to OEA at a noon rally and march held during the one- day strike in downtown Oakland — with 2,000 teachers, parents and students. “An injury to one is an injury to all,” Heins said to ap- plause. “Keep up the fight.” MIKE MYSLINSKI For updates on the Oakland show- down, see Vid- eo of the strike can be seen at www. Media-Center/Media-Center. CTA photos by Mike Myslinski

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