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Union letter: Send your kids to school on Thursday, at their own risk

By Katy Murphy
Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at 5:08 pm in families, OEA, teachers, union contract.

It’s official: The Oakland school district will hold school on Thursday, despite the one-day strike. So far, about 300 emergency teachers have cleared background checks, with more in the pipeline, according to district spokesman Troy Flint; at least 60 people from the central office will head out to the schools as well.

But just in case you were thinking about sending your kids to school on strike day, this letter from the Oakland teachers union — which was sent home with children in at least one school — warns that you might be placing them in harm’s way:

Please be aware that the district is hiring emergency replacements for the day of our strike, but they are far less qualified than your child’s regular teacher and substitute teachers. We are concerned that this poses a real safety threat. Support our strike and our demand that all students have a qualified teacher in every classroom!

I wonder if these letters were sent to homes across the city.

 ”In many of our neighborhoods, I don’t think you can make an argument that not being in school is safer than being in school,” Flint said. “That’s particularly true for those parents who can’t afford daycare or to take off work.” 

Of course, Flint didn’t claim that much learning would happen.

Will you send your child to school Thursday? Will you take the day off work (or school) and picket, like Sue and her family? Why (or why not)? Are parents coordinating child care to support the strike?

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  • Jenn Jones

    Goodness! Hard to read all of the comments when everyone is so fired up. I think we can all agree that public education is not what it should be. Rather than fighting amongst ourselves, we should be organizing together to support public education for all students. School choice, charter schools, PTA fundraising – when will people say enough to the stupid patches being offered to keep the sinking ship afloat. Public education is the frontline of democracy and what people don’t get is that the degardation of our society and the overcrowding in our jails and prisons are a direct result of the failure of public education. For you cynics, I would say that yes, many of our policies also have an effect, but as with anything, follow the money. The privatization of public education would make some people very wealthy. Many people don’t really understand all of the issues, but the bottom line is that our teachers are underpaid, our kids are overtested and not being taught a comprehensive holistic curriculum, PTA’s are being forced to fundraise ever greater amounts of money to fund science, art, p.e., technology and music and this fundraising, while benefiting some kids, just increases the already unacceptable disparity in “publicly” funded education. No, I cannot afford to take the day off, but yes, we will not be crossing the picket line and my kids and I will be protesting. I consider the experience to be as important to their education as anything the school’s are teaching them.

  • Nextset

    This brings back memories of other strikes, like one at the Oakland Coca Cola Bottling Plant. And the Air Traffic Controllers. The results are the same.

    Strike away.

    The problems these unions have is that times have passed them by. The workers involved have failed and neglected to adjust to changing times and adapt. Expecting to be paid to do work that is no longer respected or desired (as it once was) doesn’t work out well.

    It’s too bad, really. All this pain in the Brave New World.

    Like a lot of (wanna-be) middle class “professions” the teachers are about to see sharp reductions in their standards of living. These reductions are brought about by both national and state policy decisions involving welfare state economics and free trade/open borders. As a practical matter the middle class is being destroyed and the US will become more like the 3rd world nations we are emulating with rich and poor and little in between. The difference between the two will be determined by cognitive abilities which are largely inherited, a relatively small aristocratic elite that dominates all below them will little social mobility. Kind of like the USSR and for the same reasons. Striking won’t help the plight of the teachers because frankly they can all be replaced. And they will be replaced if they stay away long.

    Teachers are not going to have the same salary and benefits they once enjoyed (in real dollars). It doesn’t matter how “inportant” their work is. There is no budget for that kind of teacher pay, retirement and health care. Not now and not in the future either – absent a huge increase in productivity which would occur in private education long before public.

    CA and the USA are about to embark on a unprecedented monetary inflation brought about by welfare state policy. The Democratic Party likely with the collusion of the Republicans are talking about a national Sales Tax – a prominent feature of Socialist regimes. This will further erode standards of living as well as further promote the underground economy as in the USSR.

    It’s going to be a real interesting 24 to 60 months.

    The strikes will change nothing, strike away. Keep the kids home also. Or send them to OUSD. It just doesn’t matter. OUSD is not in control of their budgets. They haven’t the funding to satisfy the teachers wishes. The state has squandered the treasury on welfare state programs and cannot effectively raise additional tax revenue – and if they did they’d spend it on more welfare state programs and government overhead anyway.

  • Harold

    @nextset – so i guess you believe there isn’t a good chance that our military spending might get cut, to fund other government spending, like education?

  • oakey

    What a treat to read through this long thread. I really really am happy to have made the decision to never send my child to OUSD. Given that the current student population is down to 37,000 (I remember when it was 55,000 when the city’s population was no different than now, maybe it was even higher before I arrived in Oakland), it’s clear how many parents watch what is a totally dysfunctional system and make their choices. It is clear that OUSD will continue to shrink, and it should. The only real solution that will lead to hope for improvement in the form of education for the children of Oakland is the dissolution of the district and starting again. Perhaps the Teamsters/union teachers can form their own school system, take full responsibility for it’s operation and try to convince parents to entrust them with their own precious child. Let the best educator win. I don’t give a damn about the interest of the school board, school administration, teacher’s union, janitor’s union, trades union or any adult leaching off the taxpayer’s teat. It’s the kids interest, stupid. And it is so so clear that not one of those special interests actually have the kid’s interest as their first priority.

    Now, carry on. It’s fun to watch.

  • MeritBased

    Exactly what is a one-day strike supposed to accomplish? Especially after the school board has imposed a contract?

    I’ve read the entire string, and there’s so much talk about supporting the union, but really, what is the union thinking? While negotiations were still going on, a one-day strike would show solidarity of the union members with the bargaining team and union leadership. I get that. But there are no negotiations going on.

    So are members going to risk their jobs with a contract that contains no cuts in hard economic times by calling an extended strike until they get a “fair contract”? That would be a tough decision. But at least it would have some teeth to it.

    A one-day strike? It’s in no one’s best interest. Mere disruption without a point.

  • Cranky Teacher

    MeritBased,

    Usually when somebody doesn’t know what they are talking about, it behooves them to not take such a know-it-all tone.

    The one-day strike was called several weeks BEFORE the District announced it would not negotiate and the board voted to impose.

    The one-day strike was approved by the entire membership in a vote. It can neither be canceled nor expanded upon without further democratic process within the union.

    In being careful to represent the leadership of its members strewn across well over a 100 school sites, the union leadership is not going to make rash and anti-democratic decisions.

    I’d like to know if the Oakland School Board did any similar systematic polling of the community before it voted to arbitrarily end negotiation to put the teachers’ backs against the wall?

    After this contract issue is resolved, I hope we see the rise of principled recall campaign for all of the board members…

  • MeritBased

    Interesting. The union leadership already decided to postpone a one-day strike from April 22 to April 29. Sounds pretty unilateral to me.

    Following that reasoning, wouldn’t the union leadership be authorized to postpone once again until after the membership has the opportunity to vote on their desired response to this new development?

  • del

    Saying that the strike was authorized by the “entire” membership is misleading at best, the rate of voting would be embarrassing even in dictatorial regimes.

  • Harold

    @Oakey, i always put my students first. I support a one-day strike, but I’m not sure i can support a protracted walkout, but we are not there, as of today. I have volunteered (no pay) my time in an after school program, for years. I work 10.5 hours a day. Teachers are people too! We have kids, bills, lives … and California is expensive! OUSD kept telling us to wait for a raise, they continue to pay million dollar fines, because they are not using state funds at the 55% rate.

    Do you want your 2nd grade Teacher to burnt-out in the morning because she needs to work a night job to make ends meet? We are not looking to get paid like: Doctors, Lawyers, Firefighters, Policeman, or Wall Street executives. We want a fair living-wage. Nothing more. If we don’t get it – the great Teacher will start leaving. Is that what anyone wants to see happen?

    Many people here talk about free-market principles, well you got pay for “good” help, right?

    Trying to bust the Teacher’s union because of “bad Teachers” is going drive the best away, because no union means low pay.

    Has anyone seen what Charter School Teachers make? Maybe that’s why their turnover is so high and they keep closing so many of them? just a thought.

  • Cranky Teacher

    @ MeritBased — Right, because changing the date to conform with labor law is the same level of decision as canceling or extending the strike. Typical cheap argumentation — you can do better.

    @Del — I’d say getting 30% of the membership to drive to another school after a long day of work to vote shows quite a bit of engagement, actually. Did you make the drive? Comparing that to a dictatorship is beyond lame — were the 90% in voted in favor on a secret ballot intimidated into it? Were the nays and no-shows scared to come vote their position?

    Seriously, both of you need to work a little harder on your cheap shots before you come on here.

  • MeritBased

    @Cranky Teacher – If union leadership wanted to know what the membership really believes after these changed circumstances, it would have the membership meeting before the labor action. The membership didn’t choose a specific date for a strike–that was the leadership’s doing.

  • Montclair Parent

    Excuse me, I got the letter yesterday from my child’s teacher and as I am a room parent scanned it for some families whose children were not at school etc. The letter basically tells the parent what the teachers will be doing, how you can support them, etc. There has been such hype and many misunderstandings and rumors and fear surrounding these negotiations and the strike, all families of students want badly to be informed and appreciated this letter. The one paragraph appearing in this post appears at the end of the letter, and is being taken out of context here by being isolated from the rest of the letter’s content. Katy – you should post the whole letter. I have a scan of it and would be happy to forward to you.

  • del

    No, I did not make the drive. I rode my bike. Of course, for the other two OUSD strikes I walked, I got to vote at my site. And I don”t really think that 30% is good enough, do you? Perhaps you disagree that dictatorships have similar voting records, but can you really make the argument that it’s democratic? No, I do not feel that the nays & no shows were intimidated (although yes, I did get some flack form some one at the vote for my nay), but I think that many of us are disenfranchised by the OEA, which is reflective of their “leadership” and our status as second class citizens in this economy—we see much the same voting records in my West Oakland neighborhood.

  • Katy Murphy

    Montclair Parent: I did post a link to the full letter, which I presume some of the above readers have accessed. Look for the blue hyperlink.

  • Montclair Parent

    Thanks Katy. I see the link. People should read perhaps before commenting on intent of excerpted portion, but it is really obvious that many of the comments here have a different agenda for this comment forum than responding to the subject of your post.

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    Montclair Parent,

    Just to clear up your erroneous interpretation of the completeness of my reading I offer this…

    I guess I am responsible for starting the whole “the letter is bad” thing.

    After I read all 360 or so words of it I reacted as a parent and union member. It made me think of the worst kind of politics–the politics of fear. I don’t ever want to use them or have them used on me, like in the letter.

    And fear is a tactic often used by unions, as pointed out above in comments.

    There is no context that changes the use of fear in the last paragraph. It was a stupid thing to write. I stand by my critique.

  • Sue

    Well, I guess I’m standing charged, tried and convicted of fear-mongering too. Before the teacher letter was posted, I was saying (on another thread on this blog) that it could be risky to send kids to school on the day of the strike, and advising another parent who had asked, that it would be safer to keep their child home if that was possible.

    I had thought I was providing information and advice that another parent had asked for – what a surprise to learn that I’m really stupid and a fear-monger.

    Thanks for the education, TFT.

  • Union Supporter But -

    The union is talking about class size reduction FOR ALL SCHOOLS

    Do not support tax measures to increase pay if CHARTER SCHOOLS ALSO HAVE INCREASED PAY

    All teacher with the same number of years and the same number of hours of education beyond a basic bachelor’s degree should HAVE THE SAME PAY

    Teachers in the hills with a supportive PTA, children who have medical care, dental care, safe homes and food for students should be paid exactly the same as teachers in schools with children who have none or few of these things, even when the TEACHERS IN THE HILLS WILL NOT SWITCH PLACES WITH TEACHERS IN THE FLAT LANDS.

    So here is what I suggest: since the data supports that class size reduction for middle and upper middle class households does not make a difference in academic performance, reduce class sizes in the flat lands. Leave them at 30 in the hills. However, allow the PTA to fund teacher’s aides in classes if they wish and OUSD do NOT make it difficult to do so.

    Tax payers in Oakland give the union the best, final offer. We will support a tax increase of 5% per year for the next three years for 15% total and we will pay with property tax, but you do NOT get to say which teachers get it and which don’t – 15% across the board, fully disclosed, take it or leave it.

    The union MUST support the effort to have fully functioning teachers in every classroom. This means that when a teacher is being documented for poor performance and or coming to class not knowing the standards they teach, the union may support that teacher as they do now, AND they also must slit the cost for an independent evaluator to come in and review the complaint IN THE CLASSROOM WHILE THE TEACHER IS TEACHING. If it is deemed that the teacher does not know the content, the teaching is weak, or the teacher is inappropriate, the union MUST support a three month intervention to correct the problem in which time the teacher must begin to show immediate and sustained progress toward resolving the problem or the teacher is removed and a HIGHLY QUALIFIED replacement is put in so students will be able to be taught and learn grade level material in the year they are in – rather than dumping it on the next year’s teacher, summer school or a tutor.

    Teachers in Title 1 schools will be paid 25% MORE than teachers in the hills. Teachers in the hills with more seniority will be offered the first right of refusal for the positions in Title 1 schools at the new salary. The choice will continue by seniority from the teachers with the most seniority to the teachers with the least seniority. The 25% MORE salary will continue after the school has no longer been declared Title 1 for three consecutive years.

    Union and OUSD f you want fairness and equity for all students in Oakland then put your money where your mouth is. If you want something for the handpicked keep doing what you are doing.

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    The truth hurts, Sue.

  • montclair parent

    It is hard for families to sift through all the conflicting information we are getting from the OEA, OUSD, commenters on this blog. Here is another piece of info I have received from someone at our school (a fan of this blog as a good source of more objective reporting on the issue.) Please see here:
    “According to OUSD’s Troy Flint, only 300 scabs have been hired for the entire school district thus far. Regular subs are part of OEA and will most likely not be part of the scab group. These scabs are being paid $300 a day (more than what most teachers make in a day) and most have not passed the CBEST test (minimum requirement along with BA to be a substitute) AND have been secured off of Craigslist. If you have any
    questions about the strike that doesn’t come from the district’s perspective and is a little more balanced, check out Katy Murphy’s education blog on the Contra Costa Times website.” This is the kind of info we are hearing. Should parents not be worried? We love our teachers and no one at our school is happy about the whole situation. We went through this back in 2005-06 as well and it seems little progress has been made even though Randy Ward and the state aren’t in charge any more. Sigh.

  • Oakland Educator

    A few points of clarification:

    * OEA could not legally stage a one-day strike during negotiations. You are not strike-legal until 10 days after mediation ends, marked by receipt of the fact-finding report. It makes no sense to say we should have gone on strike during negotiations–strikes are the last resort when the other side won’t negotiate.

    * All OEA members were invited to the all-membership meeting where we authorized the strike, and they knew what we would be voting on. If they chose not to come, that does not make OEA a dictatorship; it might make the no-shows apathetic about participating in the process. Many reps encouraged teachers who were against the strike to attend to make sure their votes would be counted, too. It wasn’t a rigged vote.

    * The vote authorized the executive board to call a strike IF we were in this exact situation–no more cooperation from OUSD. Imposition is as uncooperative as you can get. We don’t need to hold a new vote based on imposition; we already authorized the the 1-day strike based on this possibility.

    * The “union leadership” postponements consisted of a good 100 or so reps debating the pros and cons during a monthly rep council meeting before voting to approve, not a cabal of union executives unilaterally plotting in a room.

    * You want to talk about misleading, how about the district claiming that instruction will proceed as usual. How is that possible if they only have 300 strikebreakers hired, none of whom are required to have a credential or experience with kids?

  • OakPar

    Union Supporter But (#68): Hills schools and Title I schools are not mutually exclusive. Montera Middle receives Title I funds, and more than half of the students bus in.

  • montclair parent

    Yes, just in case the info on emergency subs was just more “threatening OEA” propaganda… I checked Craigslist and here is the posting:
    Emergency Temporary Teachers (Oakland Unified School District)

    ——————————————————————————–
    Date: 2010-04-22, 11:23AM PDT
    Reply to: job-54zr2-1704921281@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]

    ——————————————————————————–

    EMERGENCY TEMPORARY TEACHERS NEEDED
    FOR WORK STOPPAGE
    FOR OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

    The Oakland Unified School District serves approximately 40,000 students in 120 schools and child development centers.

    In the event of a Work Stoppage, substitute teachers will be needed to teach our students.

    Rate of Pay: $300 per day

    Requirements:

    1. Bachelor’s degree (Original diploma or official transcripts)* (If the transcripts are out of the country, they must be evaluated.)
    2. Valid Drivers License, Identification Card, Permanent Residency Card or US Passport*
    3. Valid Social Security Card*
    4. Valid California Teaching Credential or 30-Day Substitute Teacher Permit (Or we will facilitate)*
    5. Proof of passing CBEST (or we will facilitate a Waiver)*
    6. Proof of TB clearance within the past 60 days* (Applicant is responsible for financial cost of the TB test)
    7. Pass criminal background check (Fingerprinting costs covered by our district)
    8. Completed hard-copy of application of employment
    (Available at Orientation)
    Sounds like instruction as usual….
    I would not cross the picket line in the first place but there are people as pointed out above by many who have no choice. Is this the district showing regard for students?

  • del

    In this situation, how would YOU have them show regard for students, Montclair parent? And can anyone tell me how this is different from OUSD’s USUAL sub hiring process?

  • Joan Ferrari

    Union Supporter But (#68): Please, let’s be careful about generalizations. My two children are in a “hills” elementary school. We have students who are foster children that came from abusive homes, we have children who are technically homeless, and many children who have at least one parent who has been without work (and therefore health and/or dental insurance) for some time. We have affluent families too, but please know– it’s not as simple as what you wrote in your post, and the PTA can’t maintain the funding as you described for aids, etc., especially when a large amount of our families are just trying to make ends meet in their own homes. Top that off with the fact that the “hills schools” get much less per student (no title I funds, for example) than flat land schools, and there is indeed a great disparity. We’d love to have some of the fabulous computer labs that flat lands school have, or the new buildings (our child is in a portable from the 1940s), but understand that resources are finite. Again, this isn’t a simple sitation…

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    All CA subs merely require a BA and have passed the CBEST. It’s been that way as long as I can remember.

    Nothing new here.

    Society is not showing regard for students, or teachers.

    And the information posted above by MP is on the OUSD website.

    What is your point?

  • ousd funemployed

    Anyone who knows the first thing about education understands that the CBEST is the best way to determine if a person will be able to keep kids safe.

    Oh, nevermind. The CBEST is the best way to determine whether a person can figure out which side of the pencil is sharp and which side erases.

    The only issue here is whether kids will be safer with fewer staff members. Those who are arguing that it is better to keep kids out of school probably live in the hills. Try this instead, either send your kids to school or leave them on the Oakland corner of my choosing for the day.

    Never-before-taught-underqualified-subs start to sound pretty good if you are a working parent who lives in the ghetto. The district is doing the responsible thing. Can you imagine if schools were shuttered and a kid was killed on the street?

  • Union Supporter-But

    Joan:

    I understand that there are many, many students in the hills who do not come from middle class backgrounds. But every school in elementary school in the hills that I am aware of – 6 to be exact – raises about $200,000 or more a year in PTA funds. In addition, each of those schools has teachers’ aides or volunteers in nearly every classroom, the library, the computer lab, morning and afternoon drop off, lunch room and in the halls and around the school. When students need help, teachers have volunteers to pull. When the lost and found is overflowing, parents clean it up – they organize weed pulling, garden tending and ecology clubs. All of which are missing from Title 1 elementary schools.

    What that affords is support both directly and indirectly that are working below grade level. For the parents in the hills who are laid off, generally speaking, their unemployment benefits are more than the annual household income in the flatlands. And those families that have a laid off family member usually, but not always have health and dental benefits at least for children through the other parent. This is not usually the case in a flat lands Title 1 school. And finally, most of the students in a hills school have homework help either at home, in an after school program or with volunteers, which is not the case in a Title 1 school.

    My two sons, particularly the youngest of the two, has had teachers who assigned homework on concepts that were never taught or even had exposure devoted in class (mathematics, English grammar, punctuation and science). Without parents at home who know the content solidly, these students must have the instruction or help at school. Hills schools provide both. Often Title 1 elementary have neither if the subjects were not taught well in class.

    What I am suggesting is that the union is very clear they are fighting for equity. However, what they are really fighting for is the same for all – same salary, same class size, same benefits to continue to have two classes of students, hills and flat lands. I am suggesting that we offer the highest pay in the schools where we need the best, brightest, most resilient, and most dedicated teachers year after year after year. If we really believe that all students have the right to teachers who are in the school year after year, we would put our money where our mouths are.

    In the hills we would be SCREAMING if there was teacher turnover at the level of some flatland schools. We have the ability to change that. But to do so we need to do something that is very, very uncomfortable and that is to have a difference in pay. I also believe that the tenure system is not broken, but simply needs to be refined. Therefore, offer those with the most seniority the Title 1 positions with the highest salary. It will truly be their choice. If they choose the hills, they choose to have an increase of 15% in pay over three years. If they choose the flats, they receive an immediate jump of 25% and another 15% over three years once the parcel tax is approved. It’s that simple – really, it is that simple.

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    The issue I raised in the first place was the denigration of subs by the union by using fear of their as yet to be demonstrated incompetence.

    I only said what I did about the CBEST because some were saying that anyone–anyone–could be a sub, but that is clearly false. Only folks with a BA and who have passed the CBEST, among the other stuff, can sub in California–not that passing the CBEST is a harbinger of greatness. It’s merely a requirement.

    And the issue was not about “fewer” staff members, as you so conveniently misstate. The letter characterizes the replacements as incompetent and posing a danger. Nothing in the letter refers to “fewer” staff, the letter refers to them as “far less qualified.”

    You even went there in your last paragraph, Ousd Funemployed.

    So, which is it? Fewer or far less qualified?

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    Hey union supporter-but,

    What if those well-to-do parents took a day or two and went to the flatland schools to help instead? And why don’t they take $75K of their PTA $$ and give it to the flatland schools?

    You are full of ideas that impact teachers bottom lines, but rather bereft of anything that would require you or your well-off friends do anything helpful right now. You busy the 29th?

  • Harold

    Ousd Funemployed, is using fear tactics (post#77). I wonder if the anti-union folks will call that contributor on it?

  • Joan Ferreri

    Our hills elementary school PTA raises considerably less than $200K/year. Not sure where you are getting your numbers…

  • Union Supporter-But

    TFT: I am saying that every teacher deserves a raise. Every one bar none. You teach in Oakland you deserve a raise. 15% over three years just like the union is asking for. I would support that with property tax. I would give the union exactly what they are asking for AND the teachers who dedicate themselves to teaching in the schools where resources are fewer deserve more. They have few human resources and students who have fewer resources.

    And, for your information the parents at my sons’ schools have been asked to help and give money, books, time, office supplies, expertise, field trips and more to flat land schools. There are more flatland schools needing resources than there are Hills schools. So even if every hills Elementary school adopted three flat land elementary schools there is still not enough to go around.

    Give all teachers the 15% increase. Do not take away from anyone. Give the teachers who must give more every day more pay. It really is that simple.

  • Joan Ferreri

    One more thing…my child’s elementary school teacher at a hills school recently confided in me that she misses teaching at a flatland school. She felt she was more respected in a lot of ways, both by the teachers and the families/students. She is hugely challenged at our school by all sorts of things, just as she would be hugely challenged by a school in any other area- including other cities such as Berkeley, Orinda, Piedmont, Richmond. Reading your argument in # 78, should teachers in Piedmont or Orinda get paid way less, just becuase they’re in an affluent community? Is teaching in an affluent community less challenging? If you think so, I beg to differ. Teaching is challenging, no matter where you are teaching. I know from personal experience both as a parent and an educator. It’s just that the challenges can differ by community, but all communities and socio-economic levels face challenges, and all teachers should be compensated equitably for working to educate our children. Differing the pay scale in such a simplistic manner is a huge mistake.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Joan:

    Piedmont teachers all took a voluntary 4% pay cut this year. They did so because they know they have the support, financial and voluntarily of the parents. They did not want to cut their classroom aides, the libraries, computer labs, and all of the other areas that support learning. Look at the Piedmont website. There base salaries are not that far from Oakland.

    And, of course teaching is hard. But hills students begin school in kindergarten having heard 30 million more words – yes, 30 million before kindergarten. A child with a rich vocabulary learns to read more easily, can use words to express needs, can write earlier and all of these points are well documented from every major university around the world.

    It is not an accident that teachers in the hills once taught in the flat lands. I don’t know of a single teacher in the flatlands who started in the hills. For the same pay, teachers in the hills have more resources, more children verbally ready for kindergarten, a type of home discipline that more matches the school environment (working out differences with words, sit at a table daily – usually during family meals, have regular exposure to books and libraries, have real world knowledge outside their neighborhood that is often referred to in both fiction and non-fiction used in the classroom.)

    Teachers in OUSD move up the hill farther along in their career, not down the hill. You want to keep them out of the hills? Pay them to stay in the flatlands. It really is that simple.

  • Oakland Educator

    Re: #85, Not that this is your central point, but depending on how you count (derivatives, etc.), there are less than 250,000 words in the whole English language. I might possibly believe 300 more words.

    I appreciate your support for a parcel tax for a teacher raise. I also agree that there have to be more resources devoted to needier students, but I think the discrepancy between hills and flatlands is far less pronounced than that between, say, Oakland and Orinda. Our district and teachers across the board need more resources to elevate the community as a whole.

    This ties into post #40, asserting that Oakland teachers get paid so little because most schools do so poorly on the standardized tests, “a situation rife with failure.” I would assert that the tests are rife with failure. I was hoping Steven Weinberg would step up and tackle that one.

    In order to understand that the game is rigged so not everyone can cross the finish line, you need to understand the difference between criterion-referenced and norm-referenced tests. Mr. Weinberg has published an article on this; there’s also info on state test norming in _Making the Grades_, including how they align scoring to psychometric predictions. The CST is supposed to be criterion-referenced, but they structure it using norm-referenced methods. Someone always ends up on the bottom, and–surprise!–it’s the kids with fewer resources than Piedmont.

  • Joan Ferreri

    Ok, Union Supporter-But Says- instead of manipulating pay as you have suggested, why don’t we consider a way to educate and support the parents, yes the parents, of those children you write about in #85- the ones who hear so many fewer words before starting kindergarten? Teachers can only do so much during the school day. Children and families in some schools shouldn’t be penalized by having less attractive pay for their teachers, simply because the parents in those particular school are, for the most part, taking responsibility for their children’s education.

  • Montclair Parent

    I’m with Joan, our hills school has NEVER raised anywhere near $200K in the 6 years we’ve been there. Not even close. And we also have a lot of students who are not from affluent homes. I know of at least 2 hills schools that will feel lucky to raise even near half of that amount you claim this year due to the economy. It is true, we have a lot of volunteers, mostly working parents, not just wealthy stay at home doctor’s and lawyer’s wives fitting it in between tennis and golf games at the country club. My point in saying that the district intends to hire emergency “teachers” who have no experience in education and for whom they furthermore can apparently just “waive” the CBEST requirement, was to second the opinion stated in #71 that the OUSD statements that instruction will proceed as usual is misleading. Also to suggest that just perhaps the OEA’s letter could be motivated by the teachers’ wish to inform families about the strike since up to now all we have gotten is notices and telephone calls from the district, and perhaps also by the teachers’ genuine concern for who will be watching their students in their absence, not just as a threat. I give the teachers I know who personally signed those letters more credit than that. Since you asked, what I would have the district do is to go back in time and never have gotten into this situation in the first place thru mismanagement, or we could go back even further to my own days in CA public schools when Prop 13 passed and compare, repeal that, and avoid just about the whole decline of public education in CA since then, but regretfully these are 20/20 hindsight now and real reform will probably not happen til long after my own kids have grown out of OUSD schools.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Joan: The adult ed teachers are considered contract – we wanted to get rid of them. You can’t teach the parents without them. The way to reduce teen pregnancy is to educate students and keep them in school. Teens are not getting pregnant in the classrooms or in school bathrooms.

    Generally we think of a generation as 25 years – in some neighborhoods a generation is 16 or 17 years. This child conceived is raised in poverty without parents to help with homework, volunteer at school or serve nutritious meals. To educate parents we must educate the child, and keep that child in school. We must be able to increase the generational age gap.

    Montclair parents what if I said you will need to give up 25% of your teachers this year, next year another 25% of your teachers, the third year you only need to give up 3 or 4 but you will have to give up at least 2 every year thereafter. And, even though the teachers are gone, your school still needs to provide consistency in curriculum across the grades, keep up morale and help furnish those new classrooms with supplies, a classroom library full of books and manipulatives for teaching math. That classroom library is there because the teacher has been at your school for a long time and has been given books by other families, they have the materials because the PTA gave them funds and they have left over supplies from previous years. But if you get rid of the teachers you get rid of their supplies.

    I guarantee every hills school would be questioning turnover like that. It would not be acceptable in any way, shape or form. Yet it seems to be okay to have that in the “other” schools.

    For information on the 30 million word gap see: archive.aft.org/pubs-reports/american…/catastrophe.html

    And, I apologize I made an error – It is not a 30 million word gap by kindergarten – it is a 30 million word gap BY AGE 3.

  • Union Supporter-But

    Oakland Teacher – there may be a more pronounced difference in Orinda and Oakland, but the teachers in Orinda will not be on the picket line on Thursday, the Oakland teachers will.

    Honestly, how many hills teachers would voluntarily go back to teaching in the flat lands with no difference in pay? I have not heard of a single one.

    If we want equity for all Oakland students it means having a well-qualified teacher in every class, every day. It means turnover of less than 10% per year. That’s what the schools in the hills get. If it is good enough for them it should be good enough for every Oakland elementary students. It is that simple, really.

  • EarthMonkey

    I just looked at Piedmont Unified pay scale because someone claimed the wage is similar to Oakland Unified’s wage. I have taught for ten years in OUSD and have 75 units so I make 55,828$ if I worked in Piedmont I would make 69,292$. That doesn’t seem very close to me. They make 44,461$ as lowest units and first year lowest scale in Oakland makes 39,456$ that is closer; but all that says is, wow, it is better to work long term in Piedmont.

    That is one of the things the teachers in Oakland have been pointing out for years. Only a die-hard is willing to stay when the pay differences are so extreme as we get past the first few years. At least without questioning the wisdom of it. Rapid turnover does not help the education of the children in Oakland.

    I am sad that the state is gutting the reduced class sizes. I am sad the district is going along with it. No matter what anyone says it is much easier to give attention to 20 children than 30 children.

    The imposed contract says we will renegotiate wages next year and the year after. That sounds like fun! The district imposed the contract and this puts us back at the full bargaining table anyway. That sounds like fun! You know those teachers in Oakland love contract negotiations for, let’s see, it will be at least three years; maybe, if we are lucky, four. It really helps us focus on the children we work with. If we don’t go out on Thursday I am sure these trustworthy nice people who imposed the contract on us will give us a wonderful contract. They said such nice ideas at the meeting such as getting rid of the columns on our step and column pay scale this is without any suggestions of what they would put in its place. If they do it by test scores that should really draw teachers to schools that are struggling.

    The teachers in the United States have to deal with the constant changes put into places by the pressures of political parties that do not know what they are talking about the majority of the time. One of the reasons a lot of teachers in Oakland no longer work in the flatland schools is because of the reorganization rules required by that brilliant legislature No Child Left Behind.

    I personally think the consistent degrading of the public education system is purposely put together by the political powers because the public education system gives power to the people. This takes away power from the elite class in our country. It also assists in this degradation if the political powers choose one scapegoat to blame for all the problems. The teachers did it all! It has nothing to do with the purposeful cutting of funding across education, the punishment methods for schools that are struggling, social ills, writing of standards and tests by people who have no knowledge of developmental levels, forced dumbing down of the curriculum, forced curriculum use that does not support the children, class, or racial issues.

  • No Blogging

    I try my best not to read this thread, but something always draws me to it…go figure. In any case, I am an OUSD teacher, alumni of OUSD, a parent of two students in OUSD, and a homeowner in the city of Oakland.

    Where does this leave me? Well obviously I’m on the picket lines, keeping my children home, and crossing my fingers that more Measure E’s don’t get passed until the district actually uses the money in the same way in which they market it “To attract and retain qualified teachers”. An equitable public education is a civil right for all in our country. I think that some of you union & teacher bashers have forgotten that…but hey, you have your bigger and better jobs to tend to…All I am is a measly underpaid, under-respected, public school, tax paying teacher. Why should my opinion count?

  • Enjoyed meeting the students today

    Although many on this blog have knocked the emergency subs for lack of qualifications, I have two graduate degrees and experience teaching in higher ed. I have served as a business exec and a university lecturer, but am seriously considering getting my teaching license and teaching full time. I also have several children of my own and am a regular parent volunteer involved in their schooling.

    The circumstances of filling in during the strike were unusual, but I took today as an opportunity to get to know some of the students at one of the local elementary schools. In my eyes, if I lived in Oakland and had to send my children to school today, I would want someone to put the children at ease and provide them with a good day.

    I brought in several books of different levels and put advance thought into how to fill the day. We read stories, did math problems, constructed a complex story for language arts, and completed several worksheets corresponding to their current homework. We rounded out the day with about 20 minutes of extra outside time and a few games. I also taught a few students Scrabble and had them using the dictionary to find words.

    Was it a perfect day? No. I am sure there was a structured lesson their normal teacher would have used. But was it a dangerous day? No, certainly not. The teachers on the picket line, I believe, would never endanger any child attending school. They really do have the childrens’ best interest at heart. Indicating otherwise is silly.

    Regardless of the strike, the children attending school today deserved to be well cared for throughout the day, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the children and see a very nice school.

  • Turanga_teach

    Enjoyed Meeting the Students,

    I’m glad to hear that you thought carefully about how to teach the students you worked with today, and I’m sure the kids had as decent an experience as they could have under the given conditions. I honestly think it’s a great thing for people who are considering getting a teaching license to start with actual experience in public schools.

    But man, I’ve gotta tell you that what you did today was NOT going to be indicative of what you will actually experience if you find yourself, in the future, joining the people whose jobs you held today.

    If the school you crossed into is anything like most schools in the district today, you got paid twice as much to teach half as many kids with 5 times the support and 1/25 as many expectations.

    The children (more of them) and the nice school will still be there tomorrow. I honestly invite you to come visit us again, and see why so many of us were on the other side of the line.

  • Enjoyed meeting the students today

    Turanga_Teach:

    Hi. Thank you for your kind note. Certainly, I would love to visit such a nice school again.

    I am curious about one thing you said. The District, and numerous news sources, have quoted that the average teacher pay in Oakland is approximately $54,000. You can find numerous cites pointing to this figure. 180 school days x $300 = $54,000. This does not include any benefits, which effectively raise the salaries. Given that, why would you say that the subs today were paid 2x as much?

    1/2 of the $300 would be $150, x 180 days is about $27,000. The starting pay in Oakland, again based on many cites I’ve read, is around $38,000. Certainly I am not saying that the “only” days teachers work are actually the 180 school days, but it is a basic number to use in calculations. I am in no way trying to be argumentative with you. I am mearly trying to understand the numbers. I look forward to your explaining it as you are knowledgable in this area.

  • Katy Murphy

    I believe that’s in comparison to the daily rate of substitute teachers, not full-time teachers.

  • Turanga_teach

    Yes, I was speaking more to sub compensation (many of our regular subs are union members, and the contract dispute is about them as well): many if not most new teachers in Oakland start out as substitutes until a position becomes available.

    Though full time teachers actually report to work 186 days, not 180, and even an average or above average teacher wage gets a lot smaller than $300 a day after you do the usual deductions for salaried work.