The Oakland Education Association is hailing "as the foundation for a fair contract settlement" the newly issued recommendations of an impartial fact-finder. The fact-finder is urging district management to award teachers a salary increase of up to 2.5% annually, more than the 2.0 % teachers have been demanding for each of two years.
The report issued today by Claude D. Ames, the impartial chair of the three-person fact-finding panel, concludes that low pay and poor learning and working conditions have created a 30% annual turnover rate for teachers that is crippling the district's ability to pursue and achieve educational excellence for more than 44,000 students. A fair salary increase is vital to recruiting and retaining top quality teachers, the most important step toward achieving excellence in all schools in the Oakland Unified School District.
Adopting the fact-finder's recommendations would put an end to a 22-month-long contract crisis. In recent days, Oakland district management has exacerbated tensions by advertising for and interviewing "strikebreakers," instead of working with the teachers' bargaining team to reach a fair settlement.
"We are calling on State Administrator Randolph Ward to agree to the recommendations of the fact-finding report as the basic framework for a settlement," said Ben Visnick, president of the 3200-member Oakland Education Association.
"Comparisons show that Oakland is not competitive in attracting and retaining quality teachers ($37,090 - Step 1) or substitutes ($111.05 daily rate) due in large part to low pay," Fact-finder Ames writes. "According to the District, exit interviews with teachers to determine the reasons for their early termination of employment, reported general frustration attributed to working conditions in Oakland (urban environment), low pay and greater opportunities for professional growth and promotions in other school districts."
The OEA announced their acceptance of the framework for settlement at a 3:30 p.m. news conference at a venue around the corner from the Oakland Airport Hilton, where district management was interviewing strikebreakers. Dozens of Oakland teachers then marched to the hotel to protest the anti-union actions and called on Administrator Ward to abandon those efforts and to move negotiations ahead toward a rapid settlement.