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Big decision Monday for Oakland teachers

By Katy Murphy
Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 at 3:48 pm in OEA, strike, teachers, union contract.

At a 4 p.m. membership meeting tomorrow at Oakland Technical High School, teachers will take an important vote: whether to authorize its leadership to call an extended strike. As of this afternoon, the meeting has not been prominently featured on the Oakland Education Association’s website, though I saw fliers promoting it on strike day.

Union leaders met Friday evening to determine the substance of tomorrow’s secret ballot and whether it would include strike authorization. My attempts to reach OEA President Betty-Olson Jones by phone that night and the next day were unsuccessful, but fortunately I saw her last night at the Oakland Museum of California reopening. (I love cornering sources while they’re out trying to enjoy themselves…)

Olson-Jones said the ballot language asks teachers to authorize actions “up to and including a strike.” Maybe it’s the standard next step for unions during a protracted contract struggle, and teachers just expect to be faced with this decision. At the same time, it doesn’t seem like the vote has been very widely publicized. (Note: I later learned that an email went out today, informing teachers about what, exactly, they’d be voting on.)

Teachers: Did you know, or assume, you’d be asked whether to authorize a strike at Monday’s meeting? Do you plan to attend? Will you vote “yes” — and why or why not?

NOTE: A strike authorization by a union’s membership doesn’t mean a strike has been called; it means union leaders are authorized to call a strike if they deem it necessary.

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  • Oakland Teacher

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    Why? Class size, adult ed, teacher pay/ no “reopeners”, nurse caseload, special ed class size, counselor to student ratio for a start.

  • Gordon Danning

    No, I did not know until I got an email today. I don’t know why the strike vote is being held in this way, unless it is to suppress turnout. When we vote for OEA President, we vote by mail.

    PS: Yes, and No.

  • L.K.

    Reiterating Oakland Teacher, yes, yes, & yes. In addition to the contract issues, this is the only way to pressure the district. Our one day strike brought them back to the table. The threat of another strike may force them to actually negotiate. OUSD’s proposed pay freeze and cuts was to save a mere 2-3 million dollars. Surely that can be found somewhere else?

  • Mahmood Ketabchi

    I thought the district agreed to go back to the bargaining table. What happened?

  • ChocolateSebastian

    Absolutely yes!!!!!!!

    I think OEA could do a better job of getting the word out, but I have been notified of the meeting multiple times. I’m not a rep or particularly active.

    I will vote to authorize actions up to and including a strike until the District offers a fair contract to teachers. I don’t think we should strike as long as the District is clearly bargaining in good faith and not simply engaging in a “charade” (Brad Stam’s of Troy Flint’s words I think.)

  • Oakland Teacher

    I assume the question in #4 is why would we vote on further work actions if the district agreed to go back to the bargaining table? They admitted that they did not bargain in good faith before; they have a history of wasting time to maintain the status quo. Now, they have an even lower “status quo”, so will be even less motivated to bargain in good faith. We are not interested in a dog and pony show. They will have to make real moves in bargaining for people to take them seriously.

    I forgot to post in #1 while answering “why?” that I will not be satisfied until they are spending 55% of their total budget in the classroom as mandated by state law.

  • Joan Ferrari

    What about the kids??? What does this mean for their education in the classroom now- as in tomorrow and through the end of the school year, and then beyond? Who is their advocate? When I try to call both the district AND the OEA, I find out nothing and get very little answers about who is watching out for the kids that are in the classrooms now. Thankfully, my children have wonderful teachers that are very professional and keep the issues out of the classroom while continuing to provide engaging, challenging lessons. Unfortunately, I don’t see that as the case in every classroom.

  • middle school teacher

    What about the kids? With the lowest salaries and the highest turnover rate in the county, I am in favor of a fight, even an extended strike, if it means that talented teachers will be attracted to teach and remain in Oakland.
    As for me, my response is yes to all three of Kathy’s questions. Over the last 8 years, I have served some of the most challenged kids in Oakland with firm commitment and unbridled passion. I have seen my cost of living soar, my health costs rise and my salary plateau. I am now a mother of two of my own whose interests I have to consider.
    I love my work; I love the kids but I would be lying if I said I haven’t thought about leaving for a better-paying district.

  • L.K.

    Joan, The teachers are there for the kids. Our working conditions are their learning conditions. Voting to authorize a strike is not the same as going on strike. It is a way to pressure the district to bargain in good faith. (One of OUSD’s spokesmen said the bargaining was a “charade” – his word – which leads one to conclude that they were only pretending?) If teachers don’t take a stand against larger class sizes, who will? Of course, we care about our students. That is why we are there and we have to stand up for our profession and students sometimes.

  • Trish Gorham

    Gordon-It is in OEA bylaws that ratification votes and strike votes be held in a membership meeting.

    The May 3 Membership Meeting was announced as early as the April 12th meeting of the OEA Representative Council.

    The previous strike vote only authorized one day, and members were told that they would get to debate and vote on any further actions.

    The purpose is clear. Revoke imposition. Maintain the pressure to settle a fair contract.

  • Gordon Danning

    Trish:

    Thanks for the clarification on the OEA bylaws.

    Re: notice, I (and most of my colleagues) knew that there was a meeting scheduled for Monday, but we did not know that there would be a strike vote on the agenda until I got the email today. In fact, I was talking Friday after school with colleagues, and no one knew whether the meeting would include a strike vote.

  • Union Stated

    At the last OEA meeting, it was stated that on May 3, teachers would discuss and vote on a possible strike (a next step if the district doesn’t change the forced contract).

    I would have thought the OEA school representatives would have already passed that on to their peers!

  • Steve Neat

    Hi All:

    I got an email from the OEA today REMINDING US (this meeting has been scheduled and publicized for weeks) that we would be meeting May 3 and letting us know what we would be voting on. I stopped by the 6 sites I was responsible for as an OEA Executive Board member on April 29 to let members know that we had a crucial meeting May 3 where we could very well vote on further work actions. This meeting has been very well publicized.

    We will not be voting on whether or not to approve an extended strike on May 3. We will be voting on whether or not to allow the OEA to call further work actions. Let’s not jump to the assumption that the next thing we immediately announce would be an open-ended strike.

    Having said that, we should not immediately lift our foot completely off the gas pedal just because the OUSD has agreed to return to the bargaining table. The imposition is still in effect. Let the school board formally revoke the imposition by a vote AND explain why they felt pressured to impose in the first place. Then let’s talk about taking no further action. As things stand, we must soon plan other actions to continue putting pressure on OUSD, and on the State Trustee Vince Matthews, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, and those who hold our district’s purse strings.

    Steve Neat,
    5th Grade Teacher,
    OEA Secretary & Exec Board

  • Steven Weinberg

    In the current atmosphere of uncertainty about the level of state funding for schools, any contract settlement is going to have to be based on faith in the good will of the other party. The imposition of a contract by OUSD made it much harder for the two sides to operate in a feeling of trust.
    I suggest that the administration try set the upcoming bargaining off on the right foot by offering to calculate how much money the district saved as a result of Thursday’s strike (I estimate that would be about $400,000–2000 strikers x $250 in lost wages – 300 substitutes x $300) and place that amount in a fund that can be used for pay increases or class size reductions (at OEA’s discretion). I would also suggest that the administration and OEA enter into an agreement to reduce teacher absenteeism during the coming year, and to place any money saved in a similar account. If this plan reduced absenteeism by 1 day per teacher, it would generate $375,000 more. Perhaps the Superintendent’s salary increase, which so upset the State Factfinder, could also be contributed to this fund.
    The Superintendent has indicated that the district will need to close schools for the 2011-12 school year to balance the budget. OEA has generally opposed school closures. Perhaps agreeing on a percentage of the savings from the closing of those schools that will be applied to higher salaries or smaller class sizes will make those closings more palatable for the untion.
    Much of the new funding available from the federal government requires cooperation between school administation and the union. Dr. Smith needs to act quickly to minimize the negative impact of his contract imposition, whether in the ways I have indicated or some other, if he hopes to obtain any of that funding for our district.

  • oakey

    Sure looks like the administration and the dear union are fighting over rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. What are the projects for total enrollment over the next few years? And do you think the way the union blindsided the parents during their one day outage by not mentioning their intent to extent strike activity will result in more or less students enrolled in the district in the future?

  • TheTruthHurts

    Mr. Weinberg, I’m not an Oakland teacher, but I appreciate anyone who has suggestions other than “stick it to ‘em”. Yours are even creative. Let’s hope both sides get creative so there are no more strikes for the sake of students.

    I also agree with the poster that said the District needs to show it’s getting to 55% or have a helluva reason not to. I think Smith said he was doing that somewhere.

    All that said, it’s gonna be hard to have OUSD come off of more money when every District in the area is cutting, including Piedmont. What secret sauce does Oakland have that it can give raises when Piedmont is cutting?

    I could see this being a tough choice for teachers, particularly when facing the prospect of more lost wages for the possibility of 2% for 6 months starting in January 2012 (according to the fact-finders recommendations). Principle is important, but paying today’s bills is too. Does OEA have some fund to help the teachers who can’t suffer the lost pay?

  • HS Math Teacher

    It’s incredibly frustrating that all the info I get regarding OEA actions is from this blog. It is hard to support a union that does not even bother to keep its members informed and does not even attempt to make it easier for more members to participate. It is the same voices over and over again. While I disagree with the district’s stance on many many things, I also have many issues with the union. I won’t be able to make it to vote, but I probably could have managed with more notice.

  • east oakland teacher

    We were told on the picket line about the vote by an OEA teacher who was going around to all the schools to count how many teachers were participating in the strike. Presumably she and others like her visited many schools that day. Also I got the email today from two different sources.

  • Confused Teacher

    I agree with HS Math teacher.
    Don’t get me wrong, I will most likely vote yes tomorrow, however, I am not sold that a long term strike will change the district’s mind. I understand why and sympathize with teachers in the district who have worked and earned their fair share. If we strike indefinitely, however, I’ve talked to multiple teachers who just can’t afford to be on strike for a month…

  • maestra

    When OUSD almost went on strike a few years back (when I was employed with them), the union used its automated phone calling system to remind me of the strike several times. However, when it was called off, I had to find out THROUGH THE NEWS. No one thought to use the phone system for that. I totally sympathize with the teachers but my experiences with the union were nothing but negative. A bunch of people seeking power.

  • L.K.

    HS Math Teacher, does your site have a union rep? If so, does your rep call union meetings? Have you gone to union meetings at your site? The union is us. Talk to your union rep about the communication issues.

  • Longtime Oakland

    NO WAY will I go on strike! I did the walkout Thursday as an act of solidarity, but the union is completely tone-deaf if it thinks a strike will be successful in these economic times. What a bunch of wing-nuts! They shot down a measure that would have provided more money just because it included charters – that was shooting ourselves in the foot. I have no faith in OEA. I’ve been a teacher in OUSD for 10 years and they are consistently polarizing and narrowly focused on their own interested, as opposed to the teachers or students.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Katy,

    At our school, we have been pushing the vote VERY hard. Many emails (before the union one), talking to everybody on the picket line, with fliers. Saying: Come out, be heard, vote.

    There is only so much the tiny local office of the union can do to reach 140 different school sites.

    This is a time when teachers, all of whom have college degrees, need to take on the responsibility to self-educate, ask questions, show up to the vote and engage.

    We are not talking about students here, but “professionals.”

    Now, if the state union were involved, I suppose you could expect a more sophisticated outreach.

    Perhaps it is telling that the OUSD is using its slick website extensively — including posting that crap medianews editorial on its front page.

  • Cranky Teacher

    L.K. is completely right — stop blaming a handful of union leaders: YOU ARE THE UNION.

    Seriously, you guys sound like Tea Partiers — “He’s not our president!”

    If you don’t like the union leadership, organize an opposing slate and rally support for it.

    This all reminds me of that kid’s story about the chicken(?) who nobody would help bake the bread but all wanted to eat it….

  • Cranky Teacher

    Longtime Oakland — the teacher’s union did not endorse the parcel tax. It was the voters of Oakland that “shot it down.”

    Stop assigning the union magical powers it does not have.

  • Side Convo

    Still, Cranky, I think it’s fair to say that the union had considerable influence in the defeat of the parcel tax.

    While I don’t always agree with the union’s actions, I definitely feel that our contract’s current status is untenable. I really really hope that it doesn’t come to a strike, but if it does, I’ll be on the line.

  • Harold

    @longtime Oakland – funding charters, would be “shooting ourselves in the foot”. We don’t have to agree on that point, but i am sure, the majority of OEA members understand the big picture.

    Charter schools are a trojan horse. “Choice” for parents and union-busting for Teachers. Wish it wasn’t true, but that’s the way i see it. I am here to teach. But, i also have a family. I need more money. Union Teachers make more money than Charter school Teachers. Its easy to choose sides…

  • Betty Olson-Jones

    Yes, there will be a vote at today’s OEA membership meeting to “Authorize the OEA Executive Board to call all actions as necessary to settle the contract dispute with OUSD up to and including a strike.” (There will also be a vote on accepting the Tentative Agreement on health care.) Katy is not accurate in saying it’s a vote on whether to authorize an extended strike. Certainly that is one option, but I want readers to be very clear that OEA leadership will be judicious in our choice of tactics for settling this contract dispute. An extended strike is a very serious endeavor (I know, I was on the picket lines in 1996) and not one that we would undertake without very careful analysis of our strengths.

  • J.R.

    Harold,

    The parents and taxpayers(like myself) are stuck in a tough spot, although charters may be a “Trojan Horse” of sorts(some of them very well may be)the education establishment has been losing any respect that it had. As long as the grades are down(and progress is not forthcoming), and the system continues to protect the so called rights of teachers over the rights of students taxpayers and parents will continue to view all educrats(except for those teachers with principle,passion and purpose) as nothing more than Trojan Horses as well. It is easy to choose sides, I side with the children.

  • Cranky Teacher

    The studies are clear, J.R.: Charter schools are not outperforming public schools.

    Contrary to media hype, the vast majority of parents nationally — 89% — are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their public school children’s teachers.

    Everybody attacks the system and the egregiously bad teachers, but the hysteria is actually coming from some very well-funded sources.

    Personally, having gone to public school K-12, sending my kid to one, and teaching in them, I think they are terribly mediocre — which I believe has less to do with bad teachers and more to do with the fact that society doesn’t agree on their purpose and because it takes a lot of care and resources to run a quality school.

  • J.R.

    Cranky,
    What it takes is attitude and purpose of will, and yes sufficient resources(which we have, but it has been misused and abused). I have witnessed so many Asian kids who perform so well even in the worst(academically) of schools. Why? Because mom and dad expect success and more than that, they model it, and support learning. Give me learning materials, and a diligent driven passionate teacher that knows the material, (mostly)focused kids and that is a recipe for success. We could have all the experienced, and higher paid teachers in OUSD and absolutely “NOTHING” would change.

  • Katy Murphy

    Betty: I didn’t say the membership would be voting on whether to hold a strike. But if the vote is to enable the leadership to call further actions “up to and including a strike,” I fail to see the distinction you’re drawing. If the membership approves the authorization on tonight’s ballot, the union leadership would be authorized to call a strike — whether they choose to do so or not — right?

    If that’s not the case, please let me know what is.

  • J.R.

    No one I know of is attacking “all” the teachers(most teachers are very good to great)some are dismal. Unfortunately they have the collectivist attitude that spurs them to protect and shield the inadequate, ill-temperered, lazy, burnt out brethren amongst them. we do not want to be resigned to the fact that there are lemons in every walk of life. That just doesn’t make sense where kids are concerned. We owe every child the best opportunity for a great education, but we don’t owe anyone a job just because …………

  • Cranky Teacher

    J.R.,

    No doubt, there are plenty of students who can learn in even very difficult situations and students who can learn in only the most perfect. But there are quite a few in between, perhaps the majority, who need structure and support and challenge, and are capable of being either “bad” or “good” students.

    But my point about mediocrity is a bit different. I believe that the benchmark for success in public and most private schools breeds mediocrity: Granularized information delivered via the “banking method” of education and then tested for memorization. This is the norm whether in a remedial class or AP class, for the most part. “Good” teachers are usually those who are particularly terrific at banking, or those who rebel and excite students’ learning ability through other means.

    Either way, however, we get mediocrity: A student who mainly can “bank” data is terrific on standardized tests yet is deficient in the critical thinking and analysis areas we usually claim to value. And while if the teacher emphasizes the latter abilities, the students may suffer on the rote memorization tests, exposing the teacher to negative consequences from students, parents and administrators — insuring only a few rebels will take that path.

    The human brain is simply a phenomenal learning tool, probably the best earth has ever created — yet we see so many kids whose brains are shut down, bored, overwhelmed, resistant to learning. You know many of the reasons — poor parenting, abuse, brain damage — but I would say that outmoded and lowest-denominator pedagogy is part of the problem, and NCLB has only reinforced the norms.

    And it is not just poor kids. I taught for couple of years in an upper-middle-class district which is considered one of the best in the Bay — and was quite disappointed in the kids. They tended to be intellectually incurious grade-mongers, kids who, for the most part, saw learning as simply a means to an end: Parental approval. These are the kids spoofed in “School of Rock,” the overachievers for whom school is an endless chore they happen to be good at.

    You know, I like school choice — I just don’t think it has to involve privatization and the breaking of labor unions. We COULD give teachers, parents, students and administrators at the school sites more power to make decisions and hold each other accountable. It has been done successfully in Southern California and elsewhere.

    But, as you said, it would take “attitude and purpose of will,” which is tough to apply when nobody agrees on which way we want to go.

  • Katy Murphy

    I’d also like to note, in response to Betty’s point, that a member of the Oakland Education Association’s executive board sent out an e-mail to the teacher union listserv today, making the case for a “yes” vote. The subject line was “Vote Yes on Strike Authorization May 3!”

  • Susan Townsend

    I AM thinking about the children. That is exactly why I will go to the OEA membership meeting to cast my YES vote. Yes, I will fight for the students of Oakland who have benefited from class size reduction as evidenced by the increase in test scores and student performance. Yes, I will fight for the students who deserve to have teachers who can focus on teaching instead of worrying about paying for food,rent,gas, utilities and classroom supplies. The students deserve to have teachers who feel respected by administration instead of dehumanized by an imposition of a horrible contract that increases class sizes and robs teachers of their cost of living allowances. The students of Oakland deserve teachers who are committed to Oakland, rather than teachers who are forced to move to districts with decent pay and consistent COLAs. The state budget crisis is a convenient excuse for Oakland Unified School District. The reality is that OUSD spends only 44% of its total expense of education on teacher and instructional assistant compensation, EVEN THOUGH CALIFORNIA STATE EDUCATION CODE REQUIRES THAT IT SPEND 55%(this amount equals $35 million, enough to settle this contract, NOW). OUSD receives $3000 per student MORE than the average school district in California, but pays teachers $10,000 LESS than the average school district in California. OUSD believes it is more important to spend money on contracted services, excess administrators and the highest Superintendent and State Trustee salaries in Alameda County. Oakland teachers are tired of paying the price for poor decision making that we had no part of. We took a 4% cut when teachers all over California were getting increases! We can’t give any MORE and we can’t keep doing more while being paid LESS.

  • J.R.

    Cranky,
    I agree with you, I have witnessed the voracious grade-niks as well. A while back a teacher posted some ideas about abolishing districts and standardizing teacher compensation while simultaneously:

    1.Cutting all the redundant positions(outside the classroom).

    2.Developing a multi-faceted metric(much like the cumulative file for students)to see a whole host of teacher performance trends and then merit,discipline or terminate accordingly.

    3. Develop a strict two path educational approach(one geared toward academics and the other toward a trade)special day classes(manned by hardnosed teachers) for trouble-makers who must earn their way back into regular class.

    4. Combat pay for inner city teachers(maybe a flak jacket too).

  • Nextset

    I tend to support JR’s points above.

    The strike is a joke. The readers might start following the situation in Greece – it foreshadows what will be happening in the USA. Here’s a report from Bloomberg.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a0DU2cuzM2Fw

    The government has inflated salary and benefits of the public employees to unsustainable levels – especially in combination with welfare state policies that have grown non-producers like cancer. Add to all this a political climate of both job killing legislation and free trade, so goods manufactured free of our laws can be freely imported here. All this results in – lots of strikes. We will be seeing more of this soon now.

    There will be strikes. But unless the unions have a way of enforcing their will economically the strikes will be fruitless. That is what we have here.

    However, there is an interesting article comparing us to the conditions that led to the French Revolution…

    Brave New World.

  • Sue

    @Susan Townsend

    I remember you! You taught my younger son in 2nd grade – he’s a 7th grader now, and doing very well. Thank you, for that wonderful year, for still being in the district (I’ve seen so many excellent teachers leave, and I’m so glad to learn you haven’t!), and for taking steps to improve the educations of your current and future students.

  • Longtime Oakland

    OEA actively opposed the parcel tax that would have given more money to schools because some of it would have gone to charter schools. Read today’s SF Chron article: “The one-day Oakland teachers strike wasn’t just about pay – it was about charter schools.
    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/03/BATM1D7MTV.DTL#ixzz0mved00Zv

    “In 2008, the school district almost got Oakland voters to approve a parcel tax specifically to raise teachers’ salaries. The teachers union actively opposed it, mainly because part of the money would have paid for charter-school teachers’ raises as well.

    The teachers union is dead-set against any increased funding for charter schools, which are drawing a growing number of students out of Oakland’s public schools.

    A second attempt at a tax measure didn’t even get off the table this year – again because the teachers union did not want 18 percent of the take going to charter schools.

    The catch: Without the support of parents with kids in charter schools, it’s unlikely any tax measure will get the two-thirds vote needed for approval.

    Teachers union leader Betty Olson-Jones conceded that the district is going be pointing this out as it tries to come up with a tax proposal that the union will accept. There’s debate even within the union over what to do, she said, “but at this point, our executive council has decided not to participate” in the tax talks.” The one-day Oakland teachers strike wasn’t just about pay – it was about charter schools.

    In 2008, the school district almost got Oakland voters to approve a parcel tax specifically to raise teachers’ salaries. The teachers union actively opposed it, mainly because part of the money would have paid for charter-school teachers’ raises as well.

    The teachers union is dead-set against any increased funding for charter schools, which are drawing a growing number of students out of Oakland’s public schools.

    A second attempt at a tax measure didn’t even get off the table this year – again because the teachers union did not want 18 percent of the take going to charter schools.

    The catch: Without the support of parents with kids in charter schools, it’s unlikely any tax measure will get the two-thirds vote needed for approval.

    Teachers union leader Betty Olson-Jones conceded that the district is going be pointing this out as it tries to come up with a tax proposal that the union will accept. There’s debate even within the union over what to do, she said, “but at this point, our executive council has decided not to participate” in the tax talks.”

    I’m certainly not going on strike in a city with double-digit unemployment. There are good points being made in this discussion here, but none will be addressed by a strike.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Nextset, most folks don’t have a clue what’s going on in Greece and they still believe America is invincible. I hope they are right, but I think they don’t know history.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Post 40′s quote from the Chronicle is half right:

    “In 2008, the school district almost got Oakland voters to approve a parcel tax specifically to raise teachers’ salaries. The teachers union actively opposed it, mainly because part of the money would have paid for charter-school teachers’ raises as well.

    The teachers union is dead-set against any increased funding for charter schools, which are drawing a growing number of students out of Oakland’s public schools.

    The Chronicle is inaccurate when it says the Measure N parcel tax measure if passed would have paid for charter-school teachers’ raises…”

    If you read the ballot measure, $1.8 million a year of Oakland parcel tax money would have gone to the highest performing charter schools but there was nothing in the language that required the charter schools receiving the money to pass that money on to charter school teachers.

    Chronicle got the part about the Oakland Education Association opposing charter schools right. And, good for the democratically governed Oakland Education Association voting for a policy that opposes financing corporate charter schools that are publicly financed and privately managed with little public accountability.

    The idea that charter schools of Oakland have the power to deny pay raises for Oakland Public School teachers is speculation. However, the opposition of unions to Measure N blocked its passage and that was not speculation but a historic fact.

    Charter schools are in competition with public schools and it makes no sense for public schools to support financing their competition.

    And, it makes no sense to support mixing charter schools and public schools request for parcel tax funding. Each should appeal to the public separately for funding and provide the Oakland voters with the opportunity to vote on each separately.

    Jim Mordecai

  • TheTruthHurts

    Jim,

    You could be accurate in everything you say and still public district schools LOSE. As you allude, charter schools are in a better position to raise private funds to sustain themselves. Parents want them – rightly or wrongly. They are not going away. That is a union dream, particularly in a city where the traditional public schools are failing in the eyes of many parents.

    So what does the union do? Well, they essentially take the position that BOTH boats should sink. “If you are gonna get $0.10 then I don’t want $0.90.” Yeah, that sounds rational. Given the ability of charters to fundraise, it puts district schools in a relatively WORSE position. So, it looks like OEA takes out a pistol and shoots itself in the foot so it will have the right to shoot charters in the foot too. Brilliant!

    This also makes all the screaming and hollering about raises seem secondary to punishing parents for sending their kids to charters or trying to kill the very schools that some parents want as an option. What does that say?

    OK, let’s see the alternative. Say OUSD lays off another 100 non-teaching employees to give teachers a 2% raise. Aside from increasing Oakland’s unemployment rate, does that make parents more likely to send their kids to OUSD? Or say, OUSD closes 25 schools instead of 20 to get the money. Does that improve the quality of teaching? Does it even make a meaningful financial contribution to the employees it rewards?

    As I’ve said before, I’m all for raises, but I’d rather talk about meaningful raises from a significant source of money than cutting off my left pinky so I can have an extra finger on my right.

  • Jim Mordecai

    The Truthhurts:

    The issue in Oakland is not just seeking a new “meaningful” source for financing Oakland teacher raises but getting the District to alter its current spending priorities, so that $80,000 for Washington D.C. lobbyist to speak to Barbara Lee’s people about funding Oakland security with some of her earmarks funding, will no longer be a priority in these hard economic times.

    The School Board is capable of putting on the ballot a request for funding only Oakland Public School teachers and non-teaching employees with a parcel tax increase matched to inflation.

    Now if such a clean parcel tax measure, devoid of payout to charter schools, was to pass, there would be a meaningful and ongoing source of funding future OUSD pay raises as inflation returns. OUSD, receiving more money for salaries than local charter schools, would also be more competitive and in the long run better salaries might increase the closing of charter schools instead of Oakland Public Schools.

    To say that the charter school forces have the political muscle to prevent passage of additional parcel tax for OUSD teaching and non-teaching employees if they are left behind can only be proven at the ballot box.

    So I say the Oakland School Board should put a clean request for a parcel tax for OUSD teaching and non-teaching workers on the ballot box and let Oakland voters decide.

    And, if charter schools want a piece of the parcel tax revenue, let the School Board support them and put their request on the ballot as a standalone charter school parcel tax measure. However, let the charter schools that would benefit from such a measure passing pay the cost of the election rather than OUSD. The failed Measure N parcel tax that would have provided $1.8 million a year to some charter schools cost OUSD thousands in payout to Alameda County but not one dollar of those thousands was charged to the charter schools that would have benefited.

    Jim Mordecai

  • TheTruthHurts

    Jim,

    I have no trouble with that thought, but my understanding is the Board doesn’t put anything up, but instead supports (or doesn’t) a coalition proposal. What I think is silly is if the coalition doesn’t want to separate the issues (for whatever reason), OEA would be opposed to the point of forgoing compensation.

    Surely, OUSD needs to look at it’s spending priorities, but I would say keeping salaries flat in this economic time is signaling exactly that given what other districts/employers are doing. I mean with a $100 million loan, declining enrollment and $85 million in cuts to make, why else would OUSD be the only district in the area not cutting salaries and benefits?

  • Harold

    @TTH – where were voices like yours during the good times? there was money everywhere (2000-2007). We were told to wait. While we waited, Teachers in surrounding districts got raises. West Contra Costa Teachers, received a raise just two years ago.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Harold, if I remember correctly there was a substantial raise somewhere in 2000-2002 (Katy help?). By 2003, the effects of declining enrollment and a dotcom bust were making their way into public finances and OUSD was taken over.

    Getting a $100 million line of credit isn’t really a great place to begin raising salaries. According to OUSD’s information, raises came again in 2005-06 at 6.25% – http://publicportal.ousd.k12.ca.us/199410331174255857/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=57315. I think that was after a long contract fight too. The current contract fight began in 2008. It seems OEA and OUSD have a timeliness problem.

    As for your question, “Where were voices like yours,”

    I’m not sure these were good times financially for OUSD, and
    I made the assumption that OUSD was accepting the low salaries that come from its perpetually low class sizes and its proliferation of schools and resulting overhead.
    Raise the class sizes and cut schools like other districts and I assume there would be more money available for salaries. Seems to work in my current district and all over California.

    I thought small schools and small class sizes were a good idea, but I didn’t fool myself that they had no impact on salaries and overhead.

    BTW, sounds like West Contra is giving their raises back and taking health care caps to boot. Careful for what you wish for. http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-12-16/bay-area/17224273_1_contract-tuesday-night-new-contract-west-contra-costa

  • harold

    the real estate bubble (2001-2007) generated a lot of property taxes.

  • Katy Murphy

    TheTruthHurts: The OEA received a multiyear, 24 percent salary schedule increase in 2000-01 and 2001-02 (and, retroactively, for the previous year); in the fall of 2003, in response to the fiscal crisis, teachers agreed to agreed to take a 4 percent cut.

    There was also a 6.25 percent increase in the 2006 contract — according to our news story from the time — though teachers agreed to pay up to $700 a year for health care, when they previously paid nothing.

  • Trish Gorham

    Let’s do the math, then, according to Katy’s figures (which others may correct).
    2003: -4%.
    2006 +6.25% minus .05% for health care. (Also included doubling co-pays.)
    So, for the last 8 years we have had a total of a 2.2% increase in salary.
    In one of the most expensive places to live in the country.
    Not exactly keeping up with the Joneses.

    I’d like to add that all but 1.5% of the raise in the 2002 settlement was covered by new state moneys. OUSD only had to adjust the budget to cover the 1.5%. They neglected to do it, which was a (small) factor in the 2003 meltdown.