Without a Contract, Oakland Teachers Approve Strike

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Teachers in Oakland, Calif., were poised last week to form picket lines after working more than a year without a contract.

The Oakland Education Association, which represents teachers in the 52,000-student district, voted earlier this month by a 3-1 ratio to authorize a teachers' strike if negotiations failed to produce a contract soon.

Talks between the 3,500-member union and the district have revolved around the issues of teachers' salaries and class size since the last contract expired on June 30, 1994.

Though no talks had been scheduled since the Nov. 15 strike-authorization vote, the two sides remained in touch last week. "We are trading paper back and forth over the faxes," said Ward Rountree, the union's executive director.

In the event of a strike, Superintendent Carolyn Getridge has vowed to keep the district's 90 schools open with substitute teachers and certified staff members from the central office, said Sherri Willis, a district spokeswoman.

The district has said that it will offer substitute teachers $180 a day during a strike instead of the normal $92.97 daily rate.

Salary Differences

The union is calling on the district to reallocate administrative expenditures toward increasing teachers' salaries.

Mr. Rountree said the union was requesting a 5 percent salary increase for the current school year, to be paid retroactively, and a 5 percent increase for 1995-96.

The Oakland school district, the sixth largest in California, has countered with a proposed 3.73 percent cost-of-living increase for 1995-96, plus a 1 percent bonus.

The district said its offer would cost $4.7 million, while the union's offer would cost $9.9 million.

Teachers also want class sizes pared down.

Currently, kindergarten classes have up to 27 students, classes in grades 1 through 3 have 30, grades 4 through 6 have 31, and higher grades have approximately 32. Union negotiators were seeking reductions in all four categories.

The district has said that Oakland already has some of the lowest class sizes in the area.

Vol. 15, Issue 13

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