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Striking Oakland teachers reach deal to end walkout, includes 11 percent pay raise

Teachers, who went on strike Feb. 21, still need to vote on the agreement, which also calls for a 3 percent bonus.
Image: Cris Bautista
Oakland Technical High School teacher Cris Bautista pickets in front of the school Friday in Oakland, California, where teachers reached a contact agreement with the school district to end a week-long walkout.Ben Margot / AP

OAKLAND, Calif. — Striking teachers in Oakland, California, reached a contract agreement Friday with district officials to end a week-long walkout.

The Oakland Education Association, which represents the city's 3,000 teachers, said union leaders reached a four-year agreement that calls for an 11 percent salary increase and a one-time 3 percent bonus. The deal also requires the district to reduce class sizes and hire more student support staff, including special education teachers and counselors, the union said in a statement.

The deal, reached on the strike's 7th day, still needs to be voted on by teachers. Teachers were expected to vote Saturday, and if the deal is approved, return to classrooms next week.

"On Monday, March 4, we look forward to everyone being together again in the classroom," 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."

Oakland's teachers walked off the job Feb. 21 to demand higher pay, smaller class sizes and more school resources.

Union officials from the Oakland Education Association said in a statement Friday that the contract deal marked "a win in every major proposal" the union made.

The city's 86 schools were open during the strike, staffed by a skeleton crew of substitutes and administrators, but most students stayed away in support of their striking teachers.

The walkout affected 36,000 students.

Image: Cris Bautista
Oakland Technical High School teacher Cris Bautista, from left, gestures to motorists as he pickets in front of the school, in Oakland, Calif on March 1, 2019.Ben Margot / AP

The Oakland Education Association said educators were forced to strike because administrators had not listened to their demands for two years. Teachers had been working without a contract since 2017.

Among their demands was a 12 percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area.

A starting salary for teachers at Oakland schools is $46,500 a year and the average salary in the district is $63,000 a year.

The union also called for the district to scrap plans to close as many as 24 schools that serve primarily African-American and Latino students. It fears more students will be lost to charter schools that drain more than $57 million a year from the district.

As part of the deal, there will be a five-month pause on any school closures, the union said.

The union rejected two earlier salary proposals that initially offered a 5 percent raise covering 2017 to 2020.

The talks did not center on pension or health care benefits, which are free for full-time workers and their beneficiaries. The Oakland district spends an additional $13,487 per teacher annually for health benefits for educators and their families.

Oakland teachers were the latest educators in the country to strike over pay and classroom conditions.

Recent strikes across the nation have built on a wave of teacher activism that began last spring. Unions for West Virginia teachers, who staged a nine-day walkout last year, ended another two-day strike last week.

Last month, teachers in Denver ended a three-day walkout after reaching a deal raising their wages.

Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest school district, staged a six-day strike last month that ended when they settled on a 6 percent raise with promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of nurses and counselors.