Oakland Teachers Are Going on Strike: Here's What You Need to Know

Ellie Kerwin, a junior in high school, holds a sign that says "I Hella Love Oakland Teachers" as she walks down Broadway during the Oakland student walkout on Feb. 8, 2019. (Lindsey Moore/KQED)

Oakland teachers plan to go on strike on Thursday, leaving parents to decide whether to send their children to school — or not. Here are some key details to help you prepare.

How many teachers are going on strike?

The Oakland Education Association, which called the strike, represents about 2,300 classroom teachers. It also represents hundreds of counselors, psychologists, speech therapists, home and hospital teachers, and teachers on special assignment, as well as some substitute teachers and school nurses. Everyone in the union can choose to strike, although they don't have to.

How many kids will be affected, and will schools be open?

The Oakland Unified School District has roughly 36,300 students. The district says all schools will remain open, although it expects that classes will be quite large and will likely not follow regular curriculum.

Principals and office staff will be supervising students. The district is also hiring temporary teaching staff to fill in where needed.

In its strike fact sheet, the district says: "Students are expected to attend school, unless there is an official district announcement of cancellation. Regular OUSD attendance policies apply during a strike.”

Where can I send my kids if I don’t want them to go to school?

The city has designated 15 recreation centers across Oakland where students can go in lieu of school.

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Additionally, Oakland’s public libraries will be open during regular hours, but kids under 7 have to be supervised by an adult.

Some parents are also planning to host groups of students at their houses, in what they're calling “Solidarity Schools.” Volunteers can sign up here.

The Rev. Anthony Jenkins of Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in West Oakland said his church will be able to host up to 250 students per day — and he’s calling on other Oakland churches to open their doors as well. Jenkins is also providing a free space for Oakland Education Association members and strike captains to use as a staging ground.

Some parents are also planning to bring their children to the picket line, as emphasized in a message on the OUSD Parents United website, an independent parent-led group in support of the strike: “Definitely plan to have your child spend some time on the picket line with you — it means a lot to teachers and will help your children contextualize what is happening,”

Finally, Grand Lake Theater is planning to charge $1 for admission and $1 for popcorn to two special film screenings on Thursday, said theater owner Allen Michaan. Specific information will soon be available on the theater's website.

Where can kids eat who don't attend school?

Free lunches and snacks for students will be available on-site at the Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church through the Bread For Ed fund, which will provide food to teachers and students during the strike, and has so far raised more than $66,000.

OEA is also setting up food distribution points around the city for kids who need access to lunch and snacks during the day.

Will there be after-school programs?

The district said all federally funded after-school programs will stay open, but urges parents to check with individual schools to make sure. A student who does not come to school can't attend an after-school program, it said.

What about school sports teams?

The Oakland Athletic League is canceling some extracurricular sports activities during the strike. Call them with specific questions: 510-879-2846.

Additionally, all middle school sports this weekend are cancelled, according to district spokesman John Sasaki. Spring sports competitions are also postponed. However, winter sports playoffs will continue as planned and school sites will individually determine whether to hold after-school practices. Parents should call their children's schools for specific information.

How will temporary teachers be vetted?

The district says it's reviewing the work references, fingerprints and health clearances for all the temporary teachers it's hiring to do fill-in work during the strike. These short-term substitutes will get paid $300 a day, according to the district.

Are charter schools affected?

No, Oakland charter schools are not part of the strike, nor are the teachers who work for them or the nearly 14,000 students who attend them. However, some charter school teachers have joined district teachers on the picket line in previous labor actions in solidarity.

How much money does OUSD stand to lose if students stay home during the strike?

On the fourth day of the strike, Oakland Unified spokesman John Sasaki said an average of about 6 percent of all students have attended school during the strike. That massive lack of attendance amounts to roughly $1 million net loss per day for the district, he said.

Sasaki added: "It is unclear as yet how the loss of any funding because of the strike will affect the overall budget issues. But in a school district with tight financial constraints such as OUSD, any money that’s lost adds to the challenge of balancing the budget."

Will striking teachers get any financial support?

Striking teachers don't receive any pay from the district (and can't use sick days), but the union has created a strike fund, and is working with a community bank that will offer low-interest loans to teachers in need. There have also been some fundraising efforts organized by parents as well as teachers from other districts to support Oakland teachers who could experience financial hardship. Among them, the United Teachers of Richmond has already contributed $1,000 to Oakland’s Bread for ED fund.

How can I find out more or get involved in organizing efforts?

There are multiple strategy sessions for parents and community members being held this week, including one planned for Tuesday and another on Friday.

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Additionally, check out OUSD’s FAQ here and OEA’s FAQ for families here.

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