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Oakland Educators Took a Financial Hit After the Strike. Now This Teacher Is Leaving California

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Raymond Pulliam teaches a third- and fourth grade combination class at Parker Elementary School in Oakland. (Courtesy of Raymond Pulliam)

Three months after they went on strike, teachers in Oakland are finally learning how much the labor action cost them.

That's because the Oakland Unified School District only recently processed their unauthorized absences.

Teachers had gone on strike in the effort to secure a new contract that would include better pay and more classroom support.

While their union, the Oakland Education Association, had invited teachers to apply for hardship funds during the strike, the union’s president told KQED it is no longer accepting applications.

But many teachers didn’t ask for help, including Raymond Pulliam, who teaches a third- and fourth-grade combination class at Parker Elementary School in Oakland.

He estimates he lost about a third of his earnings for one pay cycle, a few thousand dollars.

"There's a problem, because all the efforts that were put into the situation, it seems that I really don't know who came out on top."

"I said, 'I’m OK. I don’t need the funds.' But what it turned out to be was actually a repayment. It was a payment for the loss that was incurred during the strike," Pulliam said. "I felt like me applying was taking money away from somebody who really needed it."

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Pulliam was a strike captain who encouraged fellow teachers to go on strike in February. Now he says he has misgivings about that.

"I felt as if I was taking my soldiers into a winless fight," he said. "Yes, we all took a financial hit. I feel so sorry about those who also took that hit, but may or may not have been prepared for the type of losses that they received."

Now, he and his family are leaving California and moving to northern Virginia next month.

"I'm gone. I put a good fight in," he said. "I tried. I gave it all my all. And, Godspeed. That's all I can say."

Pulliam said the strike, and the disappointment with the deal teachers eventually received, played into that decision.

"All of the things that I experienced during the strike symbolized a microcosm of what's happening across California," Pulliam said. "You're losing more than you're gaining. We decided that we need to get out of this web and move to where things make more sense."

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