Oakland teachers call one-day strike a success

April 29, 2010 5:53:34 PM PDT
Oakland teachers are calling their one day strike a huge success. They walked out, demanding better wages and smaller classes.

The district says it does plan to return to the bargaining table, but, the 85 million dollar deficit is still the harsh reality.

At noon, teachers left their schools to march around Oakland City Hall. Teachers are calling for a better contract; one that guarantees, among other things, smaller classrooms. They want to keep the average 22 students-to-one teacher ratio in the lower grades.

"It's really all about the increasing class sizes that they are proposing, because 30 kids in a class means we have less time to work one-on-one with each child and they need help," teacher Maggie Taylor said.

Thursday's strike was also about not cutting adult education and increasing a teacher's wages. They are the lowest paid in Alameda County.

But the school district maintains the cuts are necessary.

"There's no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there's no money under the sofa cushions," district spokesperson Troy Flint said. "We cut $40 million in the past two years. We have to reduce our general fund by another $85 million by July 1 when the 2010-11 fiscal year begins."

Teachers were on the picket line at 5:30 a.m. Many parents did not send their kids to school and the union says 91 percent of teachers participated in the strike.

Teachers acknowledge it is still a tough economy and that state funding has declined drastically, affecting the classrooms.

"We have class sizes of 30-35 kids right now, and we're paying for supplies out of our own pockets," teacher Amy Dellefield said.

Oakland Unified says it has already cut in-house, laying off 105 administration staff last year.

The union believes there is enough existing money to increase teachers' pay, if the district prioritizes them and stops spending millions on outside consultants and administrators.

Teachers have been without a contract since June 2008. Last week, the school board voted to impose the district's so-called "last and final offer," without a raise, after both sides had stopped talking. But now the district has asked to come back to the table sometime next week.

"I had a feeling that this one day would be something that, may not go down in the history books as pushing toward a great settlement, then again it might, but what it shows is that teachers are here in solidarity with each other," Betty Olson-Jones of the Oakland Education Association said.


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