The strike, led by teachers union Oakland Education Association, began last Thursday with picket lines outside schools and a rally in front of City Hall, and is now into its sixth day. Around 3,000 Oakland teachers represented by the union are demanding higher wages, as well as smaller class sizes and more counselors and nurses for students.
As of Monday’s negotiations, Oakland Unified School District had upped its recent offer of a 7 percent raise to an 8 percent raise over four years with a bonus. The union has asked for a 12 percent raise.
“I’m striking today and every day for my students,” Carrie Anderson, a fifth-grade teacher at New Highland Academy said in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday. She noted that her school shares its nurse with several other schools and as a result the nurse can only be there about once a week.
“I have 30 students in my fifth-grade class. The class maximum right now is 32,” she added. “There is absolutely no way that I can meet all of my students’ needs.”
Some parents have shown up with their kids at picket lines and rallies in support of teachers. An average of 6 percent of the district’s roughly 37,000 students ― so some 2,200 kids ― have been attending school since the strike began, per the school district.
On Wednesday, a school board meeting was canceled after teachers and supporters protested outside against the budget cuts board members were expected to vote on. The meeting was reportedly meant to cut over $20 million from the school district budget. The district said in a statement that budget reductions were “needed to prioritize investing in a raise” for teachers.
Oakland teachers are the latest to demand more pay and better classroom conditions. Tens of thousands of educators in Los Angeles went on strike last month and won a better agreement, and West Virginia teachers went on strike last week to protest what they viewed as a legislative effort to privatize public education.
Oakland teachers told HuffPost earlier this week that, without a larger raise, they would be priced out of the Bay Area, where home prices have soared in recent years.
“People can’t afford to live here,” said Janet Vasquez, a sixth-grade teacher at Life Academy in East Oakland, where most of her students are Latinx. Vasquez, 22, grew up going to Oakland public schools and still lives with her family today. “I can’t afford to move out,” she said.
School district officials have said they don’t receive enough money from the state to be able to spend more on wages and other resources. Meanwhile, teachers have said the problem stems from the district mismanaging funds, spending too much on administrators and outside consultants.
John Sasaki, Oakland Unified School District’s communications director, told HuffPost earlier this week that the district had “in the past mismanaged funds ... no question,” adding that the district is “busy trying to get everything under control” and “doing everything we can.”