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Oakland teachers, students and supporters rally in the rain in front of the State Building on Feb. 25, the third day of a districtwide teachers strike. Stephanie Lister/KQED
Oakland teachers, students and supporters rally in the rain in front of the State Building on Feb. 25, the third day of a districtwide teachers strike. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

Oakland Teachers Reach Tentative Deal With District to End Strike

Oakland Teachers Reach Tentative Deal With District to End Strike

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Updated at 9:55 a.m. Saturday

The Oakland Unified School District and the city's teachers union announced a tentative deal on Friday that, if approved, would end a seven-day districtwide teachers strike that has all but shut down schools throughout the city.

The agreement must now be approved by a majority of teachers, who will be given 24 hours to review the details before voting, and could return to their classrooms by Monday.

Thousands of Oakland teachers have been on strike since Feb. 21, demanding higher wages, smaller class sizes, more nurses and counselors and an end to school closures.

“Our teachers are the core of everything we do as a school district, and we are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement that shows them how valuable they are,” Oakland Unified Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a statement. “We cannot fix decades of chronic underinvestment in education with a single contract, but this is an important first step.”


The tentative agreement includes an 11 percent incremental salary increase beginning Jan. 2019 and stretching into the 2021-22 school year. It also offers a one-time 3 percent bonus paid out after the contract is ratified.

Teachers have been demanding a 12 percent raise over three academic years, going back to the 2017-18 school year, when their last contract expired.

The agreement also includes modest phased-in class size reductions at all schools, lower caseloads for special education teachers and counselors and a five-month halt to any potential school closures. As part of the deal, the union said, the school board will also vote on a charter school moratorium.

“As a product of the Oakland schools, I just feel so much pride that we have the opportunity to greatly improve education outcomes for our students," said Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents some 3,000 teachers, counselors and nurses.

At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Brown called the strike “historic” and hard fought, and said the deal marked a major win for teachers.

“Through the power of the strike, the people of Oakland have said our students are a priority,” he said. “They wanted real investments in our children.”

The district, which receives per-pupil funding from the state, said it has lost roughly $1 million for each day of the strike. It estimated that only 6 percent of all students attended school over the last seven days.

“This seven day long strike was difficult for the entire community as it threw much of the city into uncertain waters and disrupted many lives,” the district stated in a press release. “But it also showed our teachers how appreciated they are by our students, families and all of Oakland."

The agreement was reached after several days of closed-door negotiations mediated by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and state Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.

This has been the longest teachers strike in Oakland in more than 20 years, and follows a string of other teacher walkouts across the country in the past year, including a districtwide Los Angeles strike in January that lasted six days.

For Oakland teachers, who are among the lowest paid educators in the region, with some of the highest turnover rates, the deal marks an improvement over the district's initial offer of a 5 percent increase, but still falls notably short of what teachers have been asking for.

It remains unclear how the cash-strapped district will pay for the sizable increases in teachers’ pay, new counselors, new psychologists and bonuses for nurses. School board members had planned to vote by Friday's deadline on whether to approve more than $21 million in proposed cuts for the following school year as part of a state mandate to significantly reduce its mounting deficit. The board’s initial attempt to vote was thwarted on Wednesday when throngs of striking teachers and their supporters shut down the meeting.

“A lot of us are really exhausted and ready to have the strike be over with,” said Yael Friedman, a second-grade teacher at Howard Elementary, noting that she was cautiously optimistic about the agreement. “I can’t wait to take a look at it because we’ve fought for seven days now and it’s been really difficult, and we really want to make sure the agreement is what we wanted and in our best interest.”

But, she added, “I’m feeling really relieved, and I can’t wait to see my students. I really miss being in the classroom and I miss my students, and I can’t wait to not be on strike.”

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