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Oakland public schools prepare for one-day strike

April 28, 2010 5:28:55 PM PDT
Thursday could be a disruptive day at Oakland schools as teachers strike to protest the district's decision to impose a contract with no raise.

It will be a one-day strike to make their frustration clear to administrators. 2,700 teachers will not show up for work, but only 300 replacement teachers have been hired for the day. That leaves about three teachers per school.

Some parents want to know how this will affect their kids. Many parents have decided to keep their kids home from school. It is a one-day strike and the contract has already been imposed, but negotiations are set to resume next week.

The Oakland School District is promising parents it will be business as usual inside classrooms despite the walkout.

"We will have safe and a supportive school environments, and learning will be happening," says Superintendent Tony Smith. "The day for me is not about money. The day is about honoring teachers, and their taking a stand and saying they are not compensated at the levels they should be, and I totally agree."

There is no disagreement on those points from the teacher's union.

"Teachers in Oakland have been systematically underpaid for years and we are now at the very bottom of all 17 districts in Alameda County," says Betty Olson Jones with the Oakland Education Association. "That means we can't keep teachers. So, children really suffer when they see a constant revolving door of teachers. "

Teachers have asked for a 15 percent salary increase, something many parents support.

"The hard work they do to help the kids with their education, yeah, I wouldn't mind if they had an increase," says parent Antuan Jefferson .

But, the district says it is not going to happen.

"We're face with another $85 million in reductions for 2010-11, that's just for the general fund," explains one district spokesman.

On Wednesday, a few teachers tried to convince parents and district employees to support the strike.

"Whether it's just to give us a handshake, a contribution, walk the picket line during lunch, be sick tomorrow, whatever form it can take," teacher Bill McCune says.

David Kator with the carpenter's union says, "If there is a picket line, we won't cross it."

Food will be delivered to the schools and afterschool programs will be up and running. Oakland police will also put more officers at and near the schools.

"We're canceling days off for our officers and we are bringing in officers that are on their regular days off, into work to work this strike," says Officer Jeff Thomason.

The teachers union says the district spends too much money on consultants and that they have too many administrators. Superintendent Smith says he is asking teachers for more time to reorganize the district and begin building teachers' salaries, although this will not happen this year.

Teachers will begin forming a picket line at 5:30 Thursday morning.


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