Outside of Manzanita Community School in Oakland, teachers and others carry signs on the picket line advocating for a fair contract and safe and racially just schools.
Oakland teachers and their supporters walk in a picket line outside of Manzanita Community School on Thursday, May 4, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Oakland teachers hit the picket lines for a third day on Monday, leaving more than 34,000 students without instruction with three weeks left in the school year. The main disagreements appear to be over proposals from the teachers union regarding issues beyond compensation.

While Oakland Unified School District has offered nearly $70 million in raises for teachers and other members of the Oakland Education Association—nurses, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and substitutes—the union is continuing to strike, with leaders saying the district has not engaged with their “common good” proposals, which relate to broader issues in schools and the community.

The proposal OUSD offered on Friday includes significant raises. It would increase first-year teacher salaries from $52,905 to about $63,000 and raise the pay ceiling for the most experienced educators from $98,980 to more than $110,000. 

Bargaining continued over the weekend and into early Monday morning, said OUSD Board President Mike Hutchinson. 

“Just last night our team received and walked through OEA’s counter-proposal until 1:30 a.m.,” Hutchinson said during a news conference on Monday. “While we agree on the principles of the [common good] proposals, they simply do not belong in the contract language.”

OEA’s “common good” proposals include establishing a new committee of community members, parents, students, and school staff that would oversee OUSD’s community schools, which are schools that also have resources to address students’ non-academic needs, like food, healthcare or immigration services. 

The proposals also include directives for the district’s implementation of its Reparations for Black Students policy, which was approved by the school board in 2021 to improve academic achievement and enrollment for Black students. The union’s proposal would give OEA the authority to select the teacher members of the Black Students and Families Thriving task force that the resolution created, and choose a co-chair. 

Another of OEA’s common good proposals involves housing and transportation resources for students. The union is asking that OUSD prioritize its vacant properties for housing homeless students and families, subsidize bus transportation for students who receive free or reduced-price lunch, and work to secure Section 8 vouchers from Alameda County and the city of Oakland to meet the housing needs of all families and students at OUSD. 

“We believe that in order for our kids to really be able to access their quality education, the district needs to provide additional supports outside of just regular teaching and learning,” said OEA’s bargaining team co-chair, Vilma Serrano, in an interview last week.

OUSD board directors Valarie Bachelor, VanCedric Williams, and Jennfier Brouhard held an additional news conference Monday morning, urging Hutchinson and district leaders to support and bargain over OEA’s common good proposals. 

“Community and teachers want to see [the ‘common good’ proposal] in the contract so it’s an enforceable action they can take to hold the district and school board accountable,” District 6 Director Bachelor told The Oaklandside on Monday. “As a district, we are the largest landowners in Oakland and our city is facing a historic housing crisis. It’s both a moral and fiscal imperative that we partner with our labor partners and others to build housing.”

During Monday’s OUSD press conference, Hutchinson maintained that those demands fall outside of the contract terms and aren’t relevant to negotiations. On other items, Hutchinson implied that the two sides could be close to an agreement and OUSD is willing to continue to negotiate on the other issues even after reaching a tentative agreement.  

“Items that are outside of the scope of the contract, which are basically compensation and work conditions, are not going to be negotiated,” he said. “The district is always prepared to continue discussing any items. We would love to continue partnering with teachers and the teachers union to find solutions to some of these issues that plague our communities.”

The Oakland NAACP released a statement on Monday condemning the strike as a disruption and asking the union to call it off.

“We disagree with the decision to disrupt the critical end of year learning and activities while the parties are still negotiating,” the statement said. “We strongly urge the OEA to reconsider its decision to strike at such a critical time in the school year.”

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.