Oakland Teachers Hit the Streets

Rose Arrieta

Teachers and students hold signs as they protest during a one-day strike outside of Oakland High School April 29, 2010.

Oakland teachers are walking the picket line today at schools throughout the Oakland Unified School District.

The one-day strike was called for following a labor contract imposed by the Oakland School Board last week. Late Tuesday, the Oakland Unified School District requested a meeting next week to discuss a return to the bargaining table.

We will do that, but the strike is still on,” said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the 2,800-member Oakland Education Association, which represents 2,800 teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians, speech pathologists, social workers and substitute teachers in K-12, Early Childhood and Adult Education. The district is spending too much on consultants, losing teachers to better-paying districts, and cutting back on resources for its 37,000 students, she said.

If school boards and administrators refuse to make our classrooms the top priority, or to invest in students and teachers right now, our communities will suffer for years to come. In this time of deep state budget cuts, this district has chosen to spend millions for outside consultants instead of our classrooms,” Olson-Jones added.

The district faces an $85-million budget deficit and dwindling resources.

Troy Flint, a district spokesman, said cuts are coming. At least 50 teachers and 100 employees in the central office could be laid off.

Gary Yee, president of the Oakland Board of Education told the New York Times that the contract was imposed to give teachers a clear picture of the district’s financial situation.”

Olson-Jones defended teachers on KQED radio, saying The reason we want that raise is not because we’re greedy. You don’t go into teaching because you want to make a lot of money, you go in to it for the love of the children.”

She added, When we are in a district that is at the bottom of 17 districts in Alameda Country, we can’t even keep teachers, we have a 20 percent turnover. We’re just saying bring us to the median so we can at least retain teachers who come here instead of losing them.’ ”

Oakland teachers point out that the district spends nearly 20 percent of its budget on consultants, subcontractors and related outside vendors, which is about twice the rate of all other Alameda County school districts.

In 2003, Oakland Unified was bankrupt and the state bailed it out with $100,000. The state took over the district until OUSD was able to show it had a handle on the budget and on student academic performances, which had gone into the toilet.

This is the first year the district has been in the black.

Olson-Jones says she is hoping the strike will put pressure on the district as well as the state to restore funding to the teachers. We will go to membership May 3 and ask for authorization for further actions. Short-term disruption is worth long-term stability.”

She said some teachers are holding other jobs just to get by.

I have a teacher in office who is working three jobs in order to stay here. We feel we had to make a stand. We’ve got to stop the way that business is done,” she said.

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Rose Arrieta was born and raised in Los Angeles. She has worked in print, broadcast and radio, both mainstream and community oriented — including being a former editor of the Bay Area’s independent community bilingual biweekly El Tecolote. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she is a freelance journalist writing for a variety of outlets on social justice issues.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.