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AFT president visits East Bay, defends union rights

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. (photo courtesy of the AFT)American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten came to the Bay Area today. I heard her on KQED this morning and again tonight, at a Commonwealth Club event in Lafayette.

Weingarten appeared in the “Waiting for Superman” documentary about the state of public education in the country; UC Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller, who moderated this evening’s talk, joked that the audience might remember her as the “evildoer who resists all reforms presented in public policy circles.”

Weingarten’s central message was — no surprise, given what’s been happening in Wisconsin — in defense of collective bargaining. While it’s perceived to be an adversarial process, she said, it doesn’t have to be. Continue Reading

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Oakland teachers union leaders consider a one-day strike

UPDATE: No strike on April 4. Betty Olson-Jones said the executive board determined there was too little time. She said they’ll be organizing actions before, during and after school to oppose cuts and defend collective bargaining.

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The AFL-CIO has called a national day of action April 4 in response to the curtailing of Wisconsin public workers’ collective bargaining rights and similar efforts in other states.

Later this afternoon, the Oakland teachers union’s leadership meets to decide how to show its solidarity with unions across the United States. While there is a range of ideas, some members of the Oakland Education Association’s executive board are calling for a one-day strike, said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association.

Technically, the OEA executive board could call a strike today. Continue Reading

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Will Oakland’s teachers union stand against the tax extension?

UPDATE: Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, said the OEA executive board’s anti-tax extension position has since been revised to a more neutral stance. The union’s official position will depend on how the representative council votes Monday evening.

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The fate of a proposed ballot measure to extend temporary sales, vehicle and income taxes in California could mean the difference of $330 in state funding per public school student. In Oakland Unified, that amounts to about $12 million — or $15 million, if you include the city’s independently run charter schools. But it might not even make it onto the ballot.

The Republican lawmakers’ opposition to the tax extension is widely known, but it’s not only the right that’s against the idea. Some of the far-left members of the Oakland teachers union have taken the same position, saying the state should be taxing the rich instead.

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Report: OUSD spent big $$ on consultants

No, this report was not written by the Oakland Education Association. Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute of Public Policy released it. Researchers found that as California school districts received more money between 2003-04 and 2008-09, they spent a smaller portion of it on teachers, aides and supplies.

If this sounds familiar, it’s an expansion of a report that came out last summer. My colleague Theresa Harrington wrote about it; you can find her story here.

Pop Quiz: Guess the amount that Oakland Unified spent on consultants in 2008-09, per student? Continue Reading

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GO Public Schools’ wish list for 2011

Great Oakland Public Schools, a local advocacy group that started with funding from the Rogers Family Foundation, wants to see some new blood on the Oakland teachers union’s executive board and representative council next year. It wants district leaders to emphasize high quality instruction as well as service hubs, and a “new and better response” to an unnamed principal who has complained about the required retention of mediocre teachers.

Below is a letter from GO’s director (and former OUSD administrator) Jonathan Klein, followed by the 10-item wish list. Which of the points do you agree or disagree with? Continue Reading

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It’s a strike vote. So why aren’t teachers voting?

The vast majority of those who participated in tonight’s union election authorized a strike. But most Oakland teachers didn’t vote at all.

The turnout was less than half of what it was in May, the first time this year OEA members authorized a strike. (This vote was to affirm the last one.) Only 341 union members cast ballots tonight, compared to 755 in May.

That’s well under 15 percent of the union’s membership.

Even among those who did come to the membership meeting, said union President Betty Olson-Jones, “The sentiment for a strike at this time is very, very weak.”

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OEA’s new online presence, and a key union vote on Tuesday

Guess what, Oakland teachers? If you haven’t noticed, your union’s website has been rescued from the 20th Century and resuscitated by Oakland High School math teacher Rori Abernethy (who has an impressive blog of her own in which she recently showcased her student’s work).

OEA members on April 29. Tribune staff photo by D. Ross CameronThe new OEA site is loaded with information about what your organization does, what your contract says, who your leaders are, how to reach them and how to get involved. It has a layoff survival guide and a pledge card for parents.

And, of course, a “Hot for Teachers” YouTube video.

If you visited the site’s Google calendar you would know — even if you haven’t heard it from your site rep — that there’s  an important meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Oakland Tech where you will receive a bargaining update and vote on whether to affirm the strike authorization vote taken in May.

How will you vote? Do you feel any differently about the direction the union should take than you did in May?

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The election is over. Will OUSD’s labor lull end?

Compared to this spring, when Oakland teachers held a one-day strike, there has been relative calm this fall on the labor front. Have you noticed it, too?

It seemed as if both sides were waiting. Would Oaklanders would come forth with an infusion of cash — about $17 million a year for OUSD employees until 2021 — to save the day?

Not this time. Not enough of them, anyway. As of this morning, the Measure L parcel tax had received 65.05 percent approval; it needed 66.67 percent to pass. There are only a few thousand more votes to count, said Guy Ashley, a spokesman for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

Troy Flint, the OUSD spokesman, said he expected contract negotiations to “begin in earnest again,” now that the election results are in. (Final tally at 4 p.m. today.)

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Oakland teachers union stays neutral on tax

The Oakland teachers union opposed the school district’s last (failed) attempt to raise its members’ salaries via local taxation (“Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Act“). But tonight, union leaders decided to take a neutral position on a similar initiative, Measure L, according to union President Betty Olson-Jones.

“I think it was the best we could have hoped for, given the track record,” said Peter Fiske, a Chabot Elementary School parent who’s volunteering on the parcel tax campaign.

Rebranded as “Oakland Unified School District’s Student Achievement, Support and Safety Measure,” Measure L would cost Oakland property owners $195 a year and generate an estimated $20 million. Though “teacher” does not appear in the title, most the funds would go to the salaries of teachers and other school-based employees.

The teachers union, which held a one-day strike in April and has yet to resolve a contract dispute with the district, withdrew Continue Reading