Teachers demonstrate today at five corners

Just when you thought AIMS and Tony Smith were the stories in town, OUSD educators will rally at five street corners in Oakland at 4 p.m. to drum up support for their demand of a 3.5 percent pay raise.

– 35th and MacArthur
– Grand Lake Splashpad Park  (where the Saturday farmers market is held)
– 51st and Broadway
– 98th and International
– Seventh and Market streets

Here is their explanation:

Escalating their fight for a fair contract, Oakland Unified educators will take to the streets at 4 p.m. this afternoon (Wednesday, April 17) on five street corners for their “Hour of Power” event to mobilize the community about their struggle. Oakland teachers are leaving the district due to low pay. The district, despite its $25 million in excess reserve funds, is refusing the Oakland Education Association’s proposal of a 3.5 percent raise for this school year. The protests are to educate the public about the district’s lack of priorities: For this school year, the district budgeted for 234 fewer certificated employees (teachers, counselors, etc.) and 36 fewer classified employees, but 37 more administrators.



Leadership changes on Oakland teachers union board

Challengers have unseated at least three incumbents on the executive board of the Oakland Education Association.

Ben Visnick, an Oakland High teacher and former union president, beat out incumbent Mark Airgood as treasurer. Toni Morozumi, a teacher at Montclair Elementary, unseated Tania Kappner; and Benjie Achtenberg, of Melrose Leadership Academy, will replace Craig Gordon.

Other seats will have new leaders, as well.

Isabel Toscano, a Castlemont Business Information & Technology teacher, won the open position currently held by Bob Mandel. Kei Swenson, a Fruitvale Elementary School teacher, will be the second vice president; she ran for an open seat against Mark Rendon.

Remember Oakland TIES, the group I blogged about last month? The group didn’t officially endorse any candidates, but sent out an email before the election noting that “several members of Oakland TIES” had endorsed Morozumi, Achtenberg, Toscano and Swenson.

All of them won.

Here’s the complete list of results, posted by OEA President Betty Olson-Jones: Continue Reading


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


For Oakland school employees, a possible 2 percent raise

Oakland school district staff have built a 2 percent raise for all district employees into the 2011-12 budget projections, an increase that they say will cost $2 million.

At the same time, the district plans to cut its expenses by $12 million — at least, initially, according to a presentation to the board’s Finance & Human Resources Committee by Deputy Superintendent Vernon Hal. (Watch his presentation here, under 11-0123.)

Troy Flint, the district spokesman, said principals were asked this week to prepare budgets for next year with 7 percent less — an improvement from the 15 percent cut mentioned before winter break. Continue Reading


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.”

Continue Reading


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?


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.)

Continue Reading


Teacher union hunts for `hidden vacancies’

scavenger hunt sketch from ryanrocketship's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsLet’s say a teacher announces in April she’s retiring at the end of the school year. The teacher tells the district’s HR department, and if that position needs to be filled, the HR department tells the teachers union, which tells its members they may apply for that job.

Teacher contracts in many districts allow displaced teachers (usually, the most junior teachers from schools that have eliminated positions, teachers from shuttered schools, or those returning from leave) to choose another job from the list of openings, based on their credentials and seniority. 

The process is called “priority placement,” and it ended June 4. As of today, however, at least 18 of the teachers need to be placed, and the district is obligated to find jobs for them before hiring outside the organization, according to the union president, Betty Olson-Jones.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Principals hate this process — not because the displaced teachers are bad, but because they have no say about who will be joining their staffs. Continue Reading


Off again: Contract talks with Oakland teachers

Not too long ago, the Oakland teachers union and the district administration were 23 percentage points away from reaching an agreement on teacher pay, with the union asking for a 20 percent increase to the salary schedule and the district proposing a 3 percent cut.

The two sides are much closer now. Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a resolution before the summer break, they’re not quite close enough.

THE OFFER: Yesterday, the union asked for a three-year, 8 percent pay scale hike, plus a shortened work year (no instructional days would be affected). The administration countered with a 2 percent raise and a 25-student class size cap for kindergarten through third grades, though those provisions would be suspended if the state’s per-student funding dropped by 1 percent or more.

Continue Reading


How much do school districts in California spend on teachers?

pie chart, from blprnt_van's site at flickr.com/creativecommonsThroughout the contract dispute with the school district, Oakland teachers have pointed out not only how well (or poorly) they are paid, but how much of the district’s budget is devoted to their paychecks.

By law, unified school districts in California must spend at least 55 percent of their expenses on the salaries and benefits of classroom teachers and instructional aides. For elementary school districts it’s 60 percent; for high school districts it’s just 50 percent. 

Oakland Unified fell short in 2008-09, as the union was quick to note. The data originally submitted to the state erroneously showed 56 percent, which is above the requirement, but it’s actually just below 52 percent*, said district spokesman Troy Flint.

According to this spreadsheet of unaudited data I requested from the California Department of Education (which reflects the inaccurate, higher number in OUSD), about 17 percent of all school districts in the state spent a smaller portion of their budgets on teachers than state law requires. Continue Reading