Impasse declared in contract negotiations

UPDATE: The story on yesterday’s local control ceremony, by my colleague Kristin Bender.


Just as State Superintendent Jack O’Connell decided he would return local control to the Oakland school board — and days before Superintendent Tony Smith begins his job (Wednesday) — O’Connell’s appointee announced an impasse in bargaining with the district’s largest union, said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association.

Olson-Jones said some school board members were unaware that this had happened. More on this later. I’m headed back to California now.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • harlemmoon

    Let incompetence reign!

  • TheTruthHurts
  • Julie

    Impasse….do the good people of Oakland realize that we are 14th on the list in Bay Area salaries? A 3% cut doesn’t seem like much until you figure in this statistic. I teach in Oakland and I feel like an idiot for staying in the district that I live in and care about. Number 14, for Chrissakes! And they want me to accept less?

  • Oakland Teacher


    I feel much the same way about accepting a pay cut. Unfortunately, in these economic times, I hear people complaining about any union that is not willing to accept cuts, but OUSD teachers are NOT comparable. We earn so far below what other groups do.

    I read the other day that a demoted sheriff’s deputy who now works as a “technician”, earns $55,000 (used to earn far more) per year at his new job. That is at the high end of what a teacher can earn with a master’s degree and years of experience. The city is proposing the police dept take a 10% pay cut like the other city workers. Not that I am agreeing with it, but their salaries are more than double what a teacher earns at the starting range, and more than triple at the higher levels with overtime (which we are never paid for). We already earn far below what neighboring districts pay their teachers and should not accept cuts.

    I am counting on the following, which will happen as part of fact-finding:

    comparison of the wages, hours, and conditions of employmentof the employees involved in the factfinding proceeding with the wages,hours, and conditions of employment of other employees performing similar
    services and with other employees generally in public school employment in comparable communities;

  • harlemmoon

    Julie and Oakland Teacher is there anything you’d like to say about, uh, lemme see here…teaching! Student advancement!
    As usual, this is all about you and your damn salaries.

  • TheTruthHurts

    According to the California Dept. of Education the average starting salary in California Unified School Districts was $40,073 in 2007-08 and it was $39,456. Oakland didn’t fair as well on other measures though. Let’s talk facts.


    What was really interesting is the ratio of adults to children. Oakland has more principals and teachers per student than county averages by a pretty significant margin. Maybe that impacts salary.

  • Another Teacher

    TheTruthHurts — “Didn’t fair as well” is a bit of an understatement. Ten steps down the salary schedule, OUSD pays teachers $8,000 less per year than the state average. The highest salary offered is $10,000 less than the state average, and the overall AVERAGE salary paid to teachers in OUSD is about $11,000 less than average for teachers across the state.

    Harlemmoon — You can’t attract and retain good teachers if you don’t pay them a professional salary. And if teachers are constantly having to fight to keep their salaries and benefits from being CUT (we aren’t even talking about a raise to make them even with the state average, see my response to TheTruthHurts above), then they have less time, energy, and motivation to plan instruction, develop their practice, and do the things we all know they need to do to help students advance. This isn’t well-paid teachers griping about wanting more, its underpaid, overworked teachers begging not to lose what they have. How does high teacher turnover, low teacher experience, and low teacher morale help student advancement?

  • TheTruthHurts

    After spending some time with a calculator and the CDE website, it sounds like OUSD has a choice – class size or compensation. As Another Teacher points out, the salaries are out of whack. So are class sizes and the number of teachers (and administrators) per student. Either you have more teachers at lower rates or fewer teachers at higher rates. Looks like Oakland has chosen the former. Looks like Oakland again has taken “The Road Less Traveled.”

  • Another Teacher


    Well the figures are little misleading. OUSD has way higher percentages of students qualifying for special programs than the county average — Title I, ELL, special ed, etc. Not only do such programs require more certificated and classified personnel, many of said personnel are paid through categorical funds which means cutting those positions wouldn’t really help OUSD’s budget problems. Besides, OUSD is like 2 students per adult behind the county average. Would that really account for an $11,000 dollar difference in average teacher salaries?

    In any case, even if your premise that the choice is between a reasonable salary for teachers and relatively lower class sizes, then that illustrates the bigger issue — we need to LOWER class sizes not raise them, but we also need to pay teachers more not less. So the idea of CUTTING anything is absurd. This is of course more of a state funding issue than a district one. But really it is a cultural issue. If we were a society that gave a crap about kids and valued education, we’d put the budgetary needs of the schools ahead of the tax preferences of rich people and big corporations.

  • harlemmoon

    Another Teacher, how about being thankful for the job you do have?
    Companies, non-profits, small businesses are all taking major hits and doing their level best to stay afloat.
    The solutions are not always the most amenable. Nor are they particularly gentle, but in these challenging times, WE ALL have to make concessions that we’d prefer not to. Teachers are no different. But judging from the entitled postures of some on this post you’d be run out of town to think otherwise.

  • Another Teacher


    I am thankful for the job I have. And I realize what is going on across the board economically. But the notion that teachers are unwilling to make concessions is laughable.

    Daily, teachers work more hours than they are paid for, under conditions that are often not conducive to their or their students’ success, and for compensation that has been held far behind the cost of living for YEARS. And in OUSD at least these last two conditions are worse than they are in most other places.

    We HAVE made concessions. For decades, we have made concessions. When the economy was rolling along hot and heavy for everyone else, we still made concessions — pay cuts that were never restored to meet cost of living increases, increased demands on our time inside and outside the classroom, reductions in paid prep time, reductions in professional development opportunities, etc., etc. We have made concessions all along, and we continue to make them all the time.

    But I guess teachers should just buck up and take another one for the team, so they can help absorb the fallout from a financial crisis created by the same people who refuse to pay higher taxes for schools, public safety, public infrastructure, health care, etc. There ARE people who are NOT making concessions, but forget them, let’s carve more away from teachers, nurses, firefighters, cops, old people, and poor people. Sounds like a plan.

    (I just started posting here, but I can already tell I had better stop because it is the sort of thing that I could get obsessed with, and it could use up too much of my time. So have the last word if you want it.)

  • Oakland Teacher

    Another Teacher: The best advice I can give you about the education blog is not to respond to internet trolls who spend their days baiting people.
    While everything you wrote is very well said and unfortunately, all too true, there is no way you are going to convince anyone who says we don’t care about students if we ask to be paid a comparable wage.

    I hope you will keep reading the blog and responding to Katie’s postings. I find it easier to stick with that and try hard to avoid responding to people who hate teachers and hate public education. I believe that many of the hateful comments written by repeat posters are thinly veiled racism and OUSD and public education/teachers are easy targets.

  • Michael L. Moore, Sr.

    I feel we should continue to read this very valuable blog.

    Michael L. Moore, Sr.
    29 Year OUSD Veteran (…and still in love with Oakland!)

  • Pingback: Boo! Hiss! - The Education Report - Reporter Katy Murphy’s blog on Oakland schools()

  • district employee

    I think it’s interesting that the annual salary is often quoted without being tied to the scope of work.

    For a starting salary (with just a BA, no additional credits or years of experience) of $39,456.21, a teacher is expected to work for 6 hours a day for 10 months a year, an hourly rate of $35.36.

    At the top of the salary scale (with a BA, 90 units of coursework, and 26 years of experience), a teacher earns $70,933.93 for working 6 hours a day, 10 months a year, an hourly rate of $63.56.

    In contrast, an administrative assistant (frequently charged with duties like ensuring accurate attendance at the school, managing all site-based purchasing, monitoring needs of the facilities, and providing support and information to students, families, administrators, teachers, and other staff) has to have a A.A. and ten years of experience to earn an hourly rate of $26.06 – the top of the pay scale.

    In addition, teachers are regularly paid for any extra minute they work beyond their contracted hours. I know many schools invest thousands more dollars beyond the base salary in teachers who provide small-group interventions for struggling students and for teachers who participate in leadership at school or other professional development.

    I’m the last person to suggest that teachers don’t earn every dollar they make educating our young people. I find it frustrating, though, that there is any suggestion that teachers aren’t valued or appreciated, just because the salaries OUSD pays (THAT OEA AGREED TO!!) are lower than neighboring districts. Everyone deserves to earn a liveable wage in Oakland, but OUSD doesn’t have any magical powers to overcome the disastrous state budget.

  • Oakland Teacher

    This is a state issue. Jack O’Connell and friends have burdened poor communities, families and students with the incompetence at the district and state level. Funding for education in California has been on a decline for over 20 years. We can blame teachers, but the truth is, our country and our state has failed to prioritize adequately. If the turnover rate in Oakland is 1 in 3 for teachers…something is wrong. More support is needed for both teacher and student.
    If we really were to pursue equity in our society, dare I say it, we would give the “combat pay” our gracious governor proposed years ago. You don’t give privileged communities more money and cut money from poor communities for poor performance and expect gaps to close. You fund the neediest. That is true equity in our society. Everyone gets an equal chance under the law…at least in public schools anyway.
    Teachers shouldn’t bear the burden of a poorly prioritized society, but we do. I knew when I took this job that I would be underpaid and overworked. But cutting the salary of people who have not received their COLA in years, and capping their health care for a job that traded adequate pay for health care is unjust. Benefits for teachers have been slowly stripped for the past 25 years by the way. There is no longer an incentive to teach for young teachers. Why would someone go into debt pursuing a masters and credential when the job they take no longer offers the benefits it once did?
    Don’t attack individual teachers…tax Wal-mart, tax McDonald’s, tax Chevron, the ones making the billions in this very state. Pointing at cops, teachers or nurses is stupid and it serves little purpose.

  • turner

    District employee,
    You raise a good point.

    But, let’s not forget that the administrative assistant works in an office away from the students. Teachers, on the other hand, work directly with the students and influence these students positively or negatively for years, even forever.

    Teachers do a lot more than work. They influence and inspire learning, and pass on the torch of education to the younger generation. That should be worth a little more than a starting salary of $35.36 an hour.


  • district employee

    Show me a teacher who hasn’t sent a student to “the office” for any reason. Who do you think receives that student? Whose work and responsibilities are “interrupted” constantly by those students – often the ones most in need of the “influence and inspiration” you say is found only in the classroom? Our front office staff set the tone for the entire school and community. I can’t name a single admin assistant who is not in constant contact with students.

    I don’t think anyone who works with young people is paid appropriately for the commitment and resiliency the work requires, in Oakland or anywhere. But let’s not kid ourselves – every single person on a school campus is deserving of higher salaries, not just teachers.

  • turner

    Everyone IS deserving of higher salaries.

    But do not compare your impact on the students to that of the teachers. Even the janitors come into contact with students. And you could argue that they do indeed affect the students in some way. But no way near the kind of impact the teachers have.

  • concerned parent

    District employee, you are right– the front office staff set the tone. Unfortunately, our incredible front office staff person was bumped for someone who came from a school that was closed, but with more seniority. Most of the time, I’ve seen this person hanging out in the lunch room while I am doing work, sometimes for more than an hour, instead of completing work that needs to be done at her desk. For some reason (union stuff, perhaps?), the school can’t get rid of her, even though her performance is lacking, and she makes multiple errors on a regular basis, including misinforming parents about things like kindergarten enrollment, etc. Luckily, we have volunteers to cover for her lack of effort and ability, so things don’t completely fall apart. I would like to know how and why this person is more deserving of the job (and salary) than the person before her, who kept the school running like a tight ship, and whom the parents, teachers, and principal all miss dearly! Something is broken in the system, and we are ALL paying for it in some way or another.

  • Another Teacher

    I know I said I wasn’t going to post again, but I couldn’t let District Employee’s comments pass without this response:

    1. I completely agree that ALL school staff deserve higher salaries. Arguing for higher salaries for teachers does not mean I don’t think classified staff and others shouldn’t get paid more. Again, that is the problem — public schools are shamefully, ridiculously underfunded, so the idea of CUTTING anything is shameful and ridiculous.

    2. Teachers do get paid extra for some of their extra contract work as District Employee described. But they do not get paid for “every extra minute” by a long shot.

    First of all, not all teachers take on an after school intervention group, and if they do it typically amounts to an hour or two a week for about twelve weeks or so. Even fewer teachers sit on committees for which there is extra pay available, though most do sit on committees for which there is no extra pay. Those paid committee hours for those few teachers typically add up to what — forty or fifty extra hours in a school year?

    Meanwhile, I have worked at four sites in two districts, and at every site it has been my experience that teachers regularly arrive at work thirty minutes to an hour before the beginning the contractual day, and leave one to two hours after the end of the contractual day. Many teachers also work extra hours at home in the evenings and/or work occasionally on weekends at home or at the site. All of that extra time is spent planning, preparing lessons, collaborating, meeting in committees, meeting with parents, making materials, grading assessments, marking report cards, etc. We do not get paid for any of that time. We do not get paid for any of that time remember I am talking only about hours spent outside the contract — prep periods and PD meetings are inside the contractual day).

    One extra our a day is 186 hours of unpaid work, which is already a lot, but in most cases were talking about 400, 500, 600 or more unpaid hours in a school year. This is to say nothing of an extra day or two in August and June setting up or packing up the classroom.

    By the way, we do not really get paid for 6 hours a day for 10 months. There are typically more than 200 working days an any 10 month period — we get paid for 6 hours a day for exactly 186 days (give or take a day depending on the district). And we do not get paid for the holidays and vacations.

    Anyway, like I said before, I agree with District Employee, that ALL of the staff at the school sites deserve more pay — way more pay. The whole situation is a scandal.