Oakland teachers are returning to their classrooms, this week, after a week-long strike. After a year of contract negotiations, this Sunday school officials and teacher’s unions were finally able to come to an agreement. Although Oakland teachers were not able to obtain all of their demands from the strike, they did get much more than the county wanted to offer initially. Most notably, teachers returned to schools with nearly $38 million in pay raises. This number was based on a 3 percent bonus and an 11 percent pay raise, over four years. These numbers are almost double the pay increase that district officials offered teachers before their 7-day walk out.
These increases are especially important when considering Oakland teachers are the lowest-paid in the Bay Area. Many have become extremely strained with the cost of living increases occurring in Silicon Valley. It is estimated that monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment would require up to 60% of a teacher’s salary.
In Oakland, educators and school employees were also effective at demanding smaller class sizes. The district plans to drop the class size by one student a year beginning in 2020. Counselors will also see a significant drop in student numbers as their caseloads will be reduced from the average 600 to 500 cases. School speech therapists, psychologists and resource specialists will also see reduced caseloads, while school nurses will be receiving the teachers’ raise plus another 9%, and $10,000 bonuses by 2020.
Their successful strike has not slowed down Oakland educators. Teachers will continue to push onward for classroom funding, a cease to school closings in African America and Latino communities, and a ban on charter schools, which the teachers union says divert millions from the school district. Soon after the final vote on Sunday, Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown said the victory “sends the message that educators will no longer let this school district starve our neighborhood schools of resources. Oakland educators spoke clearly today at our ratification vote that this agreement will not be the end of our struggle, and we will continue to fight in Oakland and Sacramento.”
The issues facing public schools in Oakland are plaguing public schools around the nation, causing a 30-year high in strikes for 2018 and continuing on into 2019. Teacher’s salaries continue to fall behind the wages of other college-educated employees. The American Federation of Teachers claim schools have been under-funded for years now. In 2015, public school teacher wages were 17 percent lower than those of comparable employees, and the number has continued to grow. In 2017, a report found that 29 states were offering less school funding in 2015 than in 2008. It is unsurprising that states, with very low educational funding have become locations of some of the larger teacher strikes. Last year approximately 375,000 educators and staff participated in strikes.
However, not everyone is happy for the advancements made and stands taken by teachers nationwide. Donald Trump Jr., seemed to ridicule protesting educators and school officials. Last month in El Paso, Texas, during a recent speech, the President’s son, exclaimed, “these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.” With leadership mocking and misunderstanding their plight, it is understandable why America’s teachers continue to push for better working conditions and better schools.
- Teach to Lead recognizes the many school principals, state and district systems leaders, and organizations who work collaboratively with teachers to make leadership and innovation a regular part of school culture and the profession of teaching.
- Donors Choose is an online charity that allows individuals to give directly to teachers and students. Donors can browse classroom causes by location, materials requested or greatest need.
- The United Federation of Teachers is a labor organization with over 200,000 members. Although the UFT represents teachers, nurses and other professionals in New York City, educators from across the country can benefit from its resources, particularly its website.
- SEIU Local 99 is comprised of education employees from all sectors working in schools, colleges, family/childcare centers, and administrative offices. They represent the wellbeing and standards of 35,000 public and private sector education workers throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino Counties.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Erin Mayer, Policy Analyst Contact ErinMayer@usresistnews.org
Photo by Josh Barwick