Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District began their third strike in just over a year on May 4, demanding better pay. These teachers, however, are already well paid, and the district has offered substantial raises. Still, this strike is keeping 34,000 students out of classes just before finals.
According to the California Policy Center, strikes are now becoming commonplace in the district, with Lakisha Young, founder and CEO of the nonprofit parent group The Oakland Reach telling the San Francisco Chronicle, “Every time it’s time to negotiate, there’s always a strike.”
While teachers are ostensibly striking for better wages, data would suggest they are already paid very well. A California Policy Center analysis found the average salary of a full-time teacher in this district is $79,257. When benefits are included, their total compensation averages $105,569.
According to salary tables from the district, base salaries for full time teachers start at $63,286, and top out at $112,977, excluding benefits. The district has already offered raises of 13-22% for teachers, but the union refused and claimed the district was negotiating in bad faith.
The strike comes as students are preparing for final exams and Advanced Placement tests. A teacher admitted the timing was meant to have a strong negative impact on students, to “send a big message.”
Students in the district struggle with basic math and reading, especially Black and Brown students. California Policy Center found among Black students, 19.8% meet state language standards and 10.7% meet math standards. Hispanic students are similarly behind, with 24.8% meeting language standards and 14.5% meeting math standards.
Students should not be used as a bargaining chip for better salaries, especially when teachers are already paid fairly. Unions should negotiate in good faith without purposely disrupting vulnerable students’ education at critical moments.
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