Oakland parents at odds over whether 'common good' goals should be in teacher contracts

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Oakland teachers also striking for 'common good' goals for students
Oakland teachers are striking for not only higher pay, but also for "common good" goals to benefit all students -- something not all parents agree on.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Teachers in Oakland are expected to head into their fifth day on strike on Wednesday after a deal still has not been reached between the Oakland Education Association and the Oakland Unified School District.

The union is still holding firm on their goal to include "common good" goals in their contract, meaning things like shared governance, help for homeless students and reparations for Black students.

"We want it in our contract so that we can force it," Ismael Armendariz, the Oakland Education Association President said. "You can pass a policy, policies change. When you put it in your contract, then we can hold the district accountable to doing that."

Assemblymember Mia Bonta who supports the union, says those goals are achievable for the good of all students.

MORE: How Oakland teacher pay stacks up to CA, Bay Area salaries

"Whether it be focusing on an opportunity to use our land in the district to house our homeless kids, whether it be making sure that we have community schools that have a shared governance model," Bonta said.

But some parents believe the union has taken it too far, fed up with multiple strikes over the past five years.

"I believe they've done it in the wrong way," Jesse Antin, an OUSD parent said. "You cannot circumvent the democratic process, you cannot hold kids hostage in order to make progress on these things."

Antin has two kids in the district and crossed the picket line to bring his third grader to school three out of the four days on strike, but says common good goals have no place in a labor agreement.

MORE: How similar is the Oakland teachers strike to others in Chicago and Los Angeles?

"I know the union is advocating for stuff that so many of us believe in, around justice, and homelessness and equal access, and transportation, stuff that like really matters but doesn't belong in a union contract," he said. "This is stuff that could be worked out as a community, in many cases, by our elected leaders."

On the flip side, other parents support the idea.

"Personally, I believe that it's all connected," Josh Connor, an OUSD parent said.

Parents, like Josh Connor, whose five and 6-year-old daughters made their own signs to join their teachers on the picket line Tuesday, says common good items need to be part of the contract.

"At the same time, I feel like the teachers are fighting for all of us in Oakland and so those common good goals are part of that, and they can't teach well if the kids are hungry, if the kids don't have somewhere to sleep at night," Connor said. "So they're fighting for those things so that we can all have a safe place to learn."

More stories on the Oakland Teachers Strike here.

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