FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OAKLAND – On the brink of a labor showdown, teachers here today called on the Oakland school district and its State Administrator Randolph Ward to return to the bargaining table and use a report from a state-appointed neutral fact-finder as the foundation to settle the nearly two-year-old contract crisis.
Teachers are disappointed that, after two full days of negotiations on Saturday and Tuesday, the district’s proposals failed to reflect all of the solutions outlined in the fact-finder’s report, which is posted on the Oakland Education Association’s website: www.OaklandEA.org. It is unfortunate that the district broke off talks Tuesday night without agreeing to future dates, said Ben Visnick, president of the 3,200-member OEA.
“It does a disservice to our students, parents and community for the district to be distorting the bargaining proposals sought by teachers and to be threatening to stop the negotiations,” Visnick said. “Our goal has always been a simple one. We must improve the district’s ability to retain and recruit teachers with a fair contract settlement that will stabilize our school system.”
Despite the fact-finder’s warning that a third of the district’s teachers are leaving each year for better-paying districts, the district rejected the union’s proposal for educational stability and labor peace by settling for a three-year contract instead of two years. The district also rejected the union’s compromise offer to offset health insurance costs by having teachers make 0.5 percent salary contributions annually. The district instead wants to cap health benefits starting in the 2007-08 school year at current levels. Oakland teachers, already among the lowest-paid in the Bay Area, have overwhelmingly rejected caps on health benefits that would further erode their salaries.
The district also rejected OEA proposals to improve student learning by providing classroom preparation time for elementary school teachers, and for strengthening teacher transfer rights.
The fact-finder had concluded that the district’s low pay and poor learning and working conditions were preventing the district from providing its 44,000 students with the kind of quality education they deserve.