The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After seven days, striking Oakland teachers reach deal with school district

Educators sought salary increases and an end to plans to close schools.

Teachers, students and supporters rally Feb. 21 at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of city hall in Oakland, Calif. Teachers in Oakland launched a seven-day strike that ended Friday in the country's latest walkout by educators over classroom conditions and pay. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Teachers in Oakland, Calif., have reached a tentative deal with the school system after a seven-day strike, securing a salary increase and a pledge that school officials would pause plans to shutter two dozen schools.

The Oakland Education Association, which represents about 3,000 teachers and other school workers, said in a news release that the district agreed to give teachers an 11 percent raise, bringing their pay closer to colleagues working in neighboring districts.

School system officials also agreed to pause for five months plans to close schools — a proposal that had been made with the aim of bringing financial stability to the chronically troubled district. And officials also promised to lobby the state to pass a moratorium on new charter schools in the city, which has the highest concentration of charter schools in the state.

The school system also agreed to hire more nurses, counselors and teachers to lower caseloads and class sizes.

Union members are expected to vote on the agreement, hashed out over several marathon bargaining sessions, during the weekend.

“I personally agree with so much of what the teachers have been saying,” Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said. “We cannot fix decades of chronic underinvestment in education with a single contract, but this is an important first step.”

The strike was the latest in a string of teacher revolts that have illuminated the growing discontent among public school educators over salaries, classroom conditions and the expansion of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. The Oakland strike marked the sixth job action nationally this year by educators and follows a wave of walkouts in 2018, when teachers in eight states shut down schools or left classrooms to protest funding cuts. The strikes have emboldened teachers even in unlikely places — such as Oklahoma and Arizona — to leave their classrooms to demand more funding.

The wave of teacher protests lands in Oakland, Calif.

In Oakland, teachers went to battle with the district over issues fraught with political and financial implications, making an agreement difficult. The school system, which took on a multimillion-dollar state loan to pay its bills 15 years ago, remains in a financially tenuous condition.

California’s Proposition 13, passed by voters in the late 1970s, has frozen property valuations for longtime owners, meaning the city has not seen as much of a windfall from skyrocketing housing prices as it might have. The strike, along with one in January that pushed Los Angeles teachers from the classroom, may aid a campaign to repeal Proposition 13 for commercial properties. That measure is set to go to voters in 2020. The repeal could generate an additional $10 billion in revenue — an amount far exceeding the budgets of several states — and much of that would go to bolstering education funding.

Midterms test the durability of the teacher uprising

Thousands of children have left Oakland’s public schools, entering the dozens of charter schools that have proliferated in the city. One study found that the school system loses $57 million annually because of charter schools, even taking into account what the district saves by no longer educating those students. The union has accused the district of financial mismanagement and criticized its decision to increase administrative costs and hire costly outside consultants.