Oakland school strike: Teachers reach tentative deal with district

Striking Oakland teachers and district officials reached a tentative agreement Friday afternoon that would give the educators an 11 percent raise over three years and a one-time 3 percent bonus.

The announcement, which came on the strike’s seventh day, likely ends the walkout, with teachers expected back in classrooms Monday, district officials said.

Teachers had asked for a 12 percent raise over three years.

“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,” Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said in a statement. “The contract will help ensure more teachers stay in Oakland and that more come to teach in our classrooms and support our students.”

During the strike, more than 90 percent of students stayed home and 95 percent of teachers walked picket lines, union officials said. While teachers gave up their wages during the strike, the district had a net loss of $1 million per day in state funding because of student absences.

Union officials called the agreement a “historic contract with a win in every major proposal we made.” Teachers are expected to vote on the agreement on Saturday, according to the Oakland Educators Association.

“We brought this district to their knees,” Manny Lopez, a union picket captain and Oakland teacher for 22 years. He teaches third grade at Global Family School in the Fruitvale.

“When you’re on your knees, you’re that much closer to the ground to find all the pennies,” said Lopez. “It’s been an absolute success.”

Lopez said teachers will need to read the details.

“There are some voices in the crowd trying to sow the seeds of dissent, saying ‘reject, reject, reject,’” he said. “There’s also a lot of excitement.”

The deal requires the district to hire more counselors and reduce high school class sizes by one student next year and in all schools by 2021, union officials said in a statement.

“When we strike, we win!” the statement said.

The agreement also includes commitments from school board President Aimee Eng, who will introduce a resolution that would stop school closures and consolidations for five months and call for a moratorium on new charter schools, union officials said in a statement.

“This contract is a compromise made by people who worked together to focus more of our energy and resources in the classroom,” Eng said in the district’s statement. “This agreement does exactly that.”

Parents, elected officials and teachers celebrated the apparent end of the strike.

“Great news that Oakland Unified and our Oakland teachers have reached a deal, and our students will be back in the classroom,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. “The salary increase will help teachers cope with the high cost of living in the East Bay.”

Johnson-Trammel said the agreement will allow the district to remain fiscally solvent, although it wasn’t immediately clear whether the school board will need to make additional cuts to pay for it.

“On Monday, March 4, we look forward to everyone being together again in the classroom and engaged in teaching and learning,” she said.

Some teachers were already urging a no vote, saying the deal didn’t go far enough in putting a halt to the potential closures of traditional public schools and the growth of charter schools.

“We could do so much better,” said Tania Kappner, a history teacher at Oakland Technical High School who’s on the union’s executive board. “This strike is so strong. We want a real discussion, not a rush-through.”

Kia Walton, a sixth grade math teacher at Elmhurst Community Prep, said Friday she hadn’t decided which way she would vote on the agreement.

She said the deal got them about half of what they wanted but was weak on class size reductions and school closures. The district has said its dwindling enrollment means there are too few students for too many schools.

“It’s got a nice bow wrapped on it,” Walton said. “My fear is that people will see some good things and then stop fighting these bigger issues.”

Kimberly Veklerov is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kveklerov@sfchronicle.com

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-school-strike-Teachers-reach-tentative-13656579.php.

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