Tuesday, December 11, 2018
[Alameda County] Oakland High teachers plan walkout to protest teacher pay
Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
OAKLAND — At least 75 teachers at Oakland High School are planning a walkout Monday to protest an impasse in contract negotiations, according an organizer.
There are “rumblings” that teachers from other schools may join the walkout, Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said Saturday.
In an email to teachers Saturday morning, the district warned calling in sick or taking a personal leave en masse is “an illegal labor action” and “teachers who call in sick under these circumstances will potentially be subject to disciplinary action and loss of pay.”
Oakland High English teacher Miles Murray, one of the organizers of the walkout, said the email has emboldened 75 of the school’s 90 teachers who have indicated they will participate.
“I got a flurry of responses from teachers saying, ‘good, that means they care,’ and that they’re definitely still in,” said Murray.
Murray said the walkout is not sanctioned by the district’s teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), which is currently negotiating a new contract with the district. Teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017.
“They’re probably going to get in legal trouble for it,” said Murray of the OEA. “The union has been escalating and encouraging teachers to participate in a number of different legal actions, but teachers at my school didn’t feel they were escalating fast enough, considering the insulting offers from the district.”
OEA President Keith Brown did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday afternoon.
Oakland Unified is facing a budget crisis and is expected to make deep cuts next year in order to cut $60 million from its budget by the 2020-21 fiscal year. Those cuts are likely to include the closing and consolidating of several schools.
The board has been criticized by the state and an Alameda County civil grand jury for failing to make difficult political decisions. If the district fails to follow through with its deficit-cutting plans, they could risk a state takeover.
Murray says while the district claims it can’t afford to pay teachers a living wage and cut down on class sizes, it has also increased spending on vendors, consultants and administration.
“We have the lowest pay in the Bay and the highest percentage of…money funneled from classrooms and teachers to outside consultants to the growing charter school movement,” Murray said.
While the walkout may affect students, Murray said teachers want to draw attention to issues like classroom size that affect the quality of students’ education every day.
“If teachers can’t afford to live in the city where they work…that affects quality of education,” Murray said. “It’s a short-term, one-day crisis to draw attention to this ongoing crisis.”
Sasaki said the district heard about the walkout a few days ago and has arranged for substitutes to fill in for teachers who participate.
Murray said the district has “scrambled” to find adequate substitutes teachers on a regular basis and questioned whether the district can supply enough substitute teachers.
“That’s not accurate. Instruction will continue as usual,” Sasaki said.
Teachers will convene in front of the school starting at 7:30 a.m. and march downtown, where they will hold a rally at city hall, said Murray.
“We’re working hard to find an agreement between the two sides that makes both sides happy,” said Sasaki.
December 8, 2018
The Mercury News
By Thy Vo