Oakland teachers announce strike over pay, class sizes

OAKLAND, California (AP) — Oakland teachers said they will strike starting on Thursday.

The union representing the 3,000 teachers announced the walkout on Saturday, making it the latest in a wave of educator activism that has swept the United States (US) since last spring.

The union wants smaller class sizes, more counsellors and full-time nurses, and a 12 per cent raise over three years. The district has offered five per cent and said it is squeezed by rising costs.

The action comes a day after the sides received compromise recommendations in a fact-finding report.

Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said on Friday she was pleased with the recommendations and hoped it would coax the union back to negotiations.

Teachers carry placards as they walk a picket line outside South High School in Denver. – AP

“If both sides are committed to settling the contract before a strike occurs – and we are – an agreement can certainly be reached without disrupting the educational experience for students, families and staff,” she said in a statement on Saturday.

But Union President Keith Brown said the teachers will strike unless the district dramatically changes its spending approach.

“We will strike for our students, we will strike for education justice, we will strike for racial justice,” Brown said at a news conference on Saturday. “We will strike for the future of public education in Oakland.”

Oakland Unified has about 37,000 students.

The city of roughly 400,000 is preparing for a strike, although Mayor Libby Schaaf is urging both sides to continue negotiating. The city is opening recreation centres and all public libraries for families affected by a strike.

The strike would follow one by Denver teachers, who ended a three-day walkout this week after reaching a tentative deal raising their wages. Teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district, Los Angeles, staged a six-day strike last month. That walkout ended when teachers settled on a six per cent raise and promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of more nurses and counsellors.