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A teacher strike, in pictures

Oakland Tribune photographers D. Ross Cameron and Lane Hartwell chronicled this out-of-the-ordinary day. You can find their slideshow here.

Strike day rally at Oakland City Hall

Katy Murphy

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

  • rosa rodriguez

    ousd teachers say they do it for the kids…. but do they really shouldnt those students be in a classroom getting educated? wow parents how can you go along w/ this open your eyes. see the reality students not in class district loses money that goes directly to educate our children. sad to see those faces at a strike not in a classroom! upset.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Rosa, that is a very short-sighted position.

    We can’t afford to keep losing 15% of our teachers each year and expect to improve education in this district.

    Having competitive salaries with neighboring districts is part of that.

  • No Blogging

    Just because someone is a teacher, doesn’t mean that they should continue to take it lying down. Everybody always says what about the kids? What about MY kids? I’m a teacher and my teacher also attends OUSD. Are you insinuating that I don’t care about my OWN childrens’ education because I chose to strike.

    I really wish that people would stop blaming the teachers for EVERYTHING wrong. That is exactly why the government and hired officials don’t have to own up to their mistakes in regards to funding “PUBLIC education”.

  • KTeacher

    What’s the big deal with missing one day of school? Children miss school all the time, for less serious reasons than a strike (in my classroom alone, students miss school to get their hair done, because they missed the bus, because of the rain, because their mom took them to the beach). Missing one day isn’t as as detrimental to our students as you may think, and this day was actually used by a lot of teachers to teach students about civic responsibilities and activism.
    Sure, we would all have liked to be in the classroom today, and it would have helped our kids, but the benefit of sending a message to the district outweighed the cost of a day of classroom teaching.

  • No Blogging

    …and for the RECORD…all of us teachers that honored our picket lines today missed an entire day’s pay. Give us teachers sOmE credit (geesh)…we showed up to work (most earlier than they would usually arrive), stood out in the cold, and didn’t even get paid. Obviously our cause must actually be worth it to us and it should be worth it to you.

    “Support our Students by supporting our Teachers!”

  • Cranky Teacher

    Katy, in your article today you vastly oversimplified the lead-up to the state takeover. You wrote:

    “The fiscal crisis that triggered the district’s six-year state takeover was precipitated by a 24 percent raise that former Superintendent Dennis Chaconas authorized in 2000. School Board President Gary Yee said his colleagues wouldn’t let that happen again.”

    If you read the best investigations of the death spiral of the district at that time, especially the elaborate, balanced piece that ran in the East Bay Express, you’ll see that a HUGE factor was the precipitous drop in enrollment caused by the massive demographic shift which took place because of the dot.com boom and attendant ballooning of housing prices. The drop in attendance was far greater, within a couple years, than the worst-case scenario the district bean counters predicted.

    Furthermore, the FCMAT, which may have had its own agenda as others have investigated, claimed to have exposed massive underfunding that went back years — long before the raise.

    Mind you, the raise was certainly part of the perfect storm, and I know you have to simplify for print space, but I think you really set up a phony argument for Yee to make here. Especially when you consider, the raise we are asking for is much smaller.

  • J.R.

    I had to C & P this!
    Attention all taxpayers, parents and concerned citizens:

    There is legislation proposed(SB 955) to eliminate seniority for layoffs and also make teacher dismissals easier. This will help reduce the inept teachers in the system, and make room for the young teachers coming out of college with enthusiasm and talent that are currently being thrown under the bus in this state due to seniority and tenure.

  • Union Supporter-But

    The state can legally only take over a district for financial failure. There was an attempt to have the state take over OUSD in the late 1980s or early 1990s but because we were able to right ourselves fiscally, there was nothing the state can do.

    Fiscally insolvent. That’s it.

    Lots of factors led up to the fiscal insolvency but the bottom line is the bottom line and the only way the state takes over.

  • Union Supporter-But

    KTeacher – my son missed his first day of school in six years to be out for the strike. So yes, it was a very, very big deal for him – please don’t discount that. He wanted to help the teachers, but he was very, very proud of his attendance record.

  • Union Supporter-But

    No blogging I just want to point out that it was the union that urged voters to reject teacher pay raises because the charter schools would receive them also. If the EXACT SAME ballot measure were on the ballot today would the union still be as cavalier?

  • Union Supporter-But

    Cranky Teacher – Don’t mean to point out short-sidedness when feeling about raises are so raw – however it was the union that urged voters to reject teacher pay raises because the charter schools would receive them also. If the EXACT SAME ballot measure were on the ballot today would the union still be as cavalier?

  • harlemmoon

    There, OEA! You did it. You had your much-ballyhooed walk out. You got your 15 minutes of infamy. Now, can you get back to business? You know, back to the table to discuss the contract that’s been imposed on you and your ilk. Or better yet, back to the darn classroom, where you’re paid to be. For heaven’s sake, anyplace other than the streets.

  • Chauncey

    The teachers are not the issue (well some got issues) its the union and the system they have devised. I have said all along that the OEA and union Blue Collar alignment for teachers was the wrong idea.

    Teachers are underpaid in comparison to other professional, but when compared to my Blue Collar job, you got it made!

    If you all decided to enter the world of compettion and elimnate all of the entitlements unions have devised I bet that schools would improve, pay would raise for performance, students would improve, and innovation in education would progress.

    Teachers in American, need to get out of that false umbrella- or you will be mislead and steamrolled by the reforms that will take plasce in american education. Teachers cannot even teach in a district without union representation and paying dues!!! Do liberals consider this democracy?!

    Change is developing in america, and education is a frontier that will be dramatically altered in the coming years.

    By the way, I read that even Democrats supported AB 955-is that true? If so, read the graffitti on the wall! Old way is dying.

  • J.R.

    This is a pretty good proposal:

    Teachers and all school staff should become state employees. This would allow teachers and other staff to move freely within the public school system of California, maintain seniority and salary placement, and standardize benefits. Seventy-five persent of the educational budget comes from state, federal and lottery funds; 70% of the education budget pays for teacher salaries and benefits. All our school districts (all 1000 of them) maintain a personnel office with thousands of support staff, costing approximately $1 billion dollars a year. Personnel matters could be done on a computer at the school site and uploaded to the state personnel system. Then the thousands of support staff in our school districts (including all 1,000 Associate Superintendents of Personnel) could be retrained to work in our schools to reduce class size. And, the billion dollars saved could be invested in our classrooms to benefit our children. What a novel idea, change the way we do business in our 19th century schools.

    Mathematics Teacher, Alisal HS, Salinas, CA

  • Cranky Teacher

    Harlemmmoon — You’re here every day, so I know you know that the district has been the one refusing for months to negotiate. It was the district which declared impasse. It was the district which announced they would ignore the fact-finding compromise proposal. It was the district which asked the school board, successfully, to impose the contractt.

    On Tuesday, apparently, realizing we were actually going to strike or perhaps to try and score a p.r. point, they announced they WERE going to negotiate some more. Huh?

    The fact-finding proposal, which I consider quite lame, wouldn’t have cost the district almost anything for two years — yet they wouldn’t even offer this bone.

    Why are you not criticizing the district? Only the union?

    I know why: You hate unions in theory, and nothing they do could be right.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Chauncy, you wrote: “If you all decided to enter the world of compettion and elimnate all of the entitlements unions have devised I bet that schools would improve, pay would raise for performance, students would improve, and innovation in education would progress.”

    Funny, you have no evidence for this and the status quo tells us otherwise: Private school teachers are, on average, paid less with fewer benefits than public school teachers.

    As for this phony professional vs. blue collar divide, here are a few blue collar professions which are paid a lot more than teachers:

    – prison guard
    – cop
    – union plumber
    – union electrician
    – union carpenter
    – union every other “trade”

    In related news, I watched “Office Space” last night and, in between hysterical laughing jags, remember the inanities I experienced in the private sector, where market forces supposedly make everything so perfect and inefficient!

    “Yeah, I’m going to have to go ahead and ask you to come in on Saturday…”
    – Lumberg

  • Cranky Teacher

    ooops, meant “perfect and EFFICIENT”

  • Chauncey

    Hey you Crank Teacher- Those people work year round. Some even risk their lives. Teachers work, what 190 days a year? And by the way, you are paid with tax dollars-something most blue collar employees arent.

    Cops aint Blue Collar, their street soldiers!

    What the hell is office space?

    By the way, its 9:00 am, arent you teaching?

    Fight the Power, CK, Fight the Power!

  • TheTruthHurts

    @Cranky,

    I actually sympathize with teachers who feel under siege. I think some of the teacher-bashing is way overdone. Sure, there are bad apples and sure the system is ineffective at best, but that is not the fault of teachers in general. While I do have a problem with a system that keeps poor teachers in front of needy children, I’m not blaming teachers as a group for that problem.

    However, some of the things you say simply lack credibility:

    To my knowledge management only refused to negotiate after the factfinder’s report was issued and then in less than 2 weeks said they were ready to negotiate again. Strange, yes, but where are these months where they refused you are talking about? Katy, do you have any info?

    Management did declare impasse, but wasn’t that after 18 months of negotiation? Heck, why didn’t OEA declare impasse after that much time? Are they just supposed to be at the table forever making no progress? The whole thing seems silly if it wasn’t so sad.

    Does management just keep picking up increases in costs (salary table, benefits, etc.) while you guys bargain into infinity?

  • Gordon Danning

    Re: eliminating seniority for layoffs:

    Why would a talented person who could make lots of money as a doctor, lawyer, etc, become a teacher if it means less pay AND no seniority? The whole idea is a recipe for long term mediocrity.

  • Daniel

    @20

    Doesn’t this example work both ways? Why would a talented person who could make lots of money as a doctor, lawyer, etc, become a teacher if they can be cut loose a year or two into their new career for a less effective teacher with seniority?

  • TheTruthHurts

    In my experience, most people choose to be teachers for emotional, not practical reasons. That must be particularly true in recent times given the disparity in compensation.

    There are many very bright people who choose teaching because of their passion for kids, the “cause” or simply service. I commend them.

    Most young people aren’t thinking about retiree health benefits and given the future of this country’s finances, it’s good they’re not.

  • Cranky Teacher

    @ Chauncy, you’re a crank, I’m just cranky.

    Office Space is a movie.

    I was proctoring a state exam at 9 a.m. for 6 students sitting right in front of me. Thanks for monitoring my work habits so closely. Just to keep you in the loop, I am still in my classroom and will be here for another two hours with students preparing for an AP test. On a Friday.

    @ TheTruthHurts

    The key phrase in your note is “to the best of my knowledge.” Your knowledge isn’t the best, unfortunately.

    They refused to have meaningful negotiations for most of the past two years — they would often come, reiterate the standing offer and then end the meeting after a few minutes. They formally shut down the process months before it was necessary to do so, declaring impasse.

    Look, they are playing hardball and they have their position. I don’t begrudge them that. But they have been clear for a lonnnnng time that they don’t want to budge off the zero-sum status quo offer.

    I don’t believe they are actually negotiating now, at least not in good faith. I just think they said that for p.r. because they realized they overplayed their hand with the imposition, in terms of public perception.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Katy,
    Can you get evidence of what the Cranky one is claiming?

  • Katy Murphy

    You mean, evidence that the district is only claiming it wants to bargain again for appearances sake? I guess we’ll see about that once they actually start talking again.

    Tony Smith did get rid of the state’s 3 percent pay cut proposal during the mediation process late last year (the state administrator declared impasse a few days before Smith started, but the two sides continued to negotiate, through a mediator). OUSD’s last offer — no cuts, no raises — was made in December, and the union authorized a strike in January.

    Also: Smith expressed his intent to return to the table on the night of the contract imposition. The next agenda item was titled “Next Steps: Collective Bargaining in the District.”

    Smith started out by saying: “We’d like to be directed to convene conversations immediately to look at increasing compensation and finding ways to change the current working conditions … We deeply agree teachers in Oakland deserve higher compensation.”

    So it’s not as though he decided to negotiate after seeing how badly the imposition was perceived; the next round of talks was already on the agenda. Now, the district can bargain from that place (with the ability to increase class sizes and hire hourly workers, instead of contract teachers, for adult ed ).

  • Cranky Teacher

    If the district is smart, the offer 2%/2%/2% to allow us to save face and at least keep in the ballpark with inflation.

    I suspect an offer like that would be both doable and acceptable to the rank and file.

  • TheTruthHurts

    @Katy

    I guess you’re right.

    If Cranky wants to ignore my questions and equate declaring impasse after 18 months to refusing to negotiate for months, it’s a free country.

    I just thought it strange, writing that the district “would often come, reiterate the standing offer and then end the meeting after a few minutes.” If true, that’s bad, but it didn’t sound too credible. Frankly it’s all water under the bridge now.

    Cranky mentioned OUSD was stuck on its position, but wasn’t it OEA that voted to strike way back in January? When I listened to the news reports that the strike was a response to the imposition, I had to laugh. Fortunately, your story was honest, but it was a perfect mischaracterization for a 10-second TV soundbite.

    I don’t think either side is the “bad guy.” More like crabs in a barrel to me – sadly fighting over the crumbs left to them.

  • Katy Murphy

    Well, there is truth to the statement you quoted from Cranky Teacher.

    When the fact-finding report came out this month, instead of returning to the table to reach a compromise, the district simply repeated its final offer — the one made in December, before the end of mediation was declared. The administration said it did not see the fact-finding report as the basis for further negotiations, saying the report didn’t identify where the money for the recommended raises would come from (though the OUSD appointee to the fact-finding panel signed off, uncritically, on the report). Less than a week later, the district imposed that offer. Now, with those terms in place, the administration wants to start another round of talks.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Thanks Katy. As I thought – mischaracterization with a grain of truth. OK, I get it. The use of the word “often” through me off. Clearly OUSD stopped negotiations when declaring impasse and when rejecting the factfinder’s report. I took Cranky’s comments as something broader than that. I should know better.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Hi Katy,
    The Sunday Oakland Tribune editorial attacks the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program as “wasteful spending” and a “dysfunctional program.” I always thought BTSA was well-respected and a valuable resource for our many new teachers. The ediorial did not give any specifics about why the author picked out this program as the one and only example of what should be cut. Can you invite the author to give us more details here?
    Also a larger question, who decides the editorial positions of the Tribune? As the beat reporter, do you have any input into editorials, such as the one last week endorsing the imposed settlement in Oakland?

  • Union Supporter-But

    Gordon Danning, Steven Weinberg and other teachers in Oakland: As teachers who have been willing to give your time and energy to the students of this district. I believe all teachers need a pay raise, AND I believe that teachers who teach in flatland schools, generally Title 1 schools should be paid more than those in the hills. I “justify” this difference because there is a lack of teachers willing to work and stay working in flatland schools.

    As a district we give this pay differential to hire math and science teachers because there is also a lack of teachers in those subjects.

    Will it work- why or why not? I am really concerned about the turnover in some of the schools. What the turnover means – as I have witnessed it – is the lack of consistency in grade to grade development and the inconsistency from teacher to teacher in the same grade – grade 3 teachers for example. When schools have long term staff, they often work together for curriculum development consistency.

    So, will it work? Will it keep strong teachers in flatland schools?

  • Katy Murphy

    Steve: Editorial writers typically research news articles to determine and/or support their opinion pieces, and once in awhile they ask reporters to make sure there are no glaring factual errors. But, no, I haven’t been asked for my opinion (about the issue or about the editorial, itself, after it’s written). There’s definitely a wall between the news and opinion departments. I didn’t even know, for instance, that they were planning to write about the BTSA program until today!

  • Steven Weinberg

    Thank you, Katy.
    Union Supporter-But, I tend not to favor different pay schedules for teachers at different schools or teachers of different subjects because it so hard to make such systems fair. All teachers deserve a raise, as you said, but I don’t think giving bigger raises to flatland schools will help reduce the teacher turnover very much.
    Most teachers leave flatland schools because they don’t feel effective there. I would devote more resources to creating conditions within those schools so that teachers feel they have a chance to make a difference. Creating campuses where student behavior policies are enforced, teachers have input into curriculum decisions and have all the books and equipment they need, there is adequate preparation time for teachers, and class sizes are small are the key to helping schools retain quality teachers.
    That being said, I must admit that the only year my flatland school had fully-qualified teachers applying to work there (all from out of state) was the year of big pay increase, so I know that compensation does make a difference in the number of applicants a school receives for open positions. I would be interested in seeing any studies that show what happens when districts pay teachers who work with students from lower socio-economic groups more.

  • J.R.

    Steve,

    I have a question, when you say highly qualified what does that mean(advanced degrees,mastery of subject taught, ability to engage and uplift student to progress, or just experienced)? If a teacher has extra education, and experience yet year after year class after class of students never make appreciable educational gains is that teacher still deemed highly qualified?

  • CarolineSF

    For some reason, on the topic of education, it seems dismayingly common for editorial writers to take firm positions based on pointedly NOT asking the reporters who cover education anything at all about it, as though near-total ignorance is ideal. It kind of echoes the fact that our political leaders make education policy while pointedly refusing to ask educators their views — and make a point of setting policies that educators overwhelmingly think are bad ideas.

    Perhaps this “ignorance is best” attitude also reflects the disdain for the experience and wisdom of veteran teachers and the enthusiasm for the notion that bright-eyed young newbies make the best teachers that’s so hot among editorial writers these days: knowledge and information are disrespected as “the old ways,” while absolute lack thereof signals “a fresh outlook.”

    The savvy education reporter for one of the nation’s most visible newspapers (you get it in your hotel room when you travel) basically rolled his eyes when I asked him about the paper’s editorial opinions on education, which sound like they’ve never read a word he’s written. Similarly, the Chronicle’s editorial-page views don’t reflect the tone of the education coverage. For example, Chronicle reporter Nanette Asimov has exposed numerous problems in the charter school world,including breaking the UPrep scandal; but from the tone of the op-eds and editorial views, you’d think the op-ed staff had never heard that any charter schools were anything but incredible magical miracle successes.

    I’m a daily newspaper veteran and was oblivious to this when I was actually on staff. Now it astounds me.

  • Turanga_teach

    Wow. At my school, 3rd and 5th graders are learning about Persuasive Letters and essays, and I can almost guarantee that any of them would get the academic equivalent of a slap upside the head if they made such a vague, sweeping statement as “Start by eliminating wasteful spending on dysfunctional programs such as the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program” without any supporting details whatsoever. This program specifically targets one of the most pernicious and ultimately, most expensive problems facing urban public schools today–new teachers are burning out and leaving in droves, creating instability for kids and costing thousands in recruitment and training for replacements. Who then, of course, burn out and leave in droves…lather rinse repeat.

    As a participating mentor in BTSA, I’m personally supporting a new teacher who’s the fourth replacement for the specific class _I_ burned out of as a new Oakland teacher myself four years ago: I almost left the field entirely after being thrown into that position with no help whatsoever. I can’t credit my own personal involvement, but I do think that, in general, what programs like BTSA have done to support this very talented, often overwhelmed new individual may be a good part of the reason we’ll see him again next year.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Let’s review the Trib editorials this past week:

    Comes out against OEA and teachers going on strike for a fair contract

    Comes out against BTSA – currently the only thing that keeps new teachers going long enough to last the year and returning the following year.

    Nuff said? How about we write some letters to the editor commenting on their recent editorials? Caroline is right on the money when she describes the “Ignorance is best” approach. I am glad to know that Katie was not in any way part of the most recent attack. Shame on them.

  • Steven Weinberg

    JR–I didn’t use the words “highly qualified” to describe the teachers because that term is used in the No Child Left Behind Act and has a specific legal meaning. In California the state has deemed that all intern teachers (those who are taking their college courses to earn their credentials while they are teaching) are “highly qualified.” That, of course, renders the term meaningless. On the other hand, I can’t fault the state, since they have no way of filling all classrooms with fully credentialed teachers.
    When I used the words “fully-qualified” I mean that the teachers had clear credentials (had completed teacher education coursework) and had experience teaching successfully in other districts. All the teachers I am referring to did have a positive impact on their students.
    In my ten years of experience reviewing the test scores of scores of teachers and thousands of students in several Oakland Middle Schools I have never seen a case where the scores of one teacher’s students never went up year after year after year. I don’t think that proves that all the teachers were good, it just shows that test scores are a poor way of determining teacher quality.

  • J.R.

    Steve,
    OK thank you for the answer, I just used the term “highly qualified” because that is the one that everyone uses, as per NCLB. As for the other part of my question I have run across certain teachers whose students by and large experience what we call “lost years” due to the fact that students do not progress much if at all.

  • J.R.

    Steve,
    I do agree with you that test scores are by themselves a very poor metric, but if teachers can get a good “indicator” on students performance and or attitude with their “cumulative file” I think teachers can be judged in much the same way and it would not be too far off the mark.