The big picture: The teachers are demanding a 12% raise over the next 3 years, citing the Bay Area's sky-high cost of living, and rejected Oakland Unified School District's last offer of an 8.5% raise over 4 years. The district argues that it simply can't meet the teachers' salary demand as it already faces a budget shortfall of more than $50 million by the 2020-2021 school year.
No end in sight for nationwide wave of teacher strikes
In the past year, teachers across the country have initiated a sustained protest movement, challenging school districts and elected officials to allocate funds for increased salaries, benefits and resources to meet the needs of students.
The state of play: The string of walkouts, introduced by West Virginia educators who led a 9-day strike in February 2018, shows no signs of slowing or stopping. Already this year, there have been strikes in Los Angeles and Denver that have resulted in school district concessions. West Virginia teachers led a second statewide action Tuesday, and a similar picket line is expected to form in Oakland beginning Thursday.
The big picture: This movement is evolving into something deeper than mere calls for school funding, teacher wages and benefits. Demands for smaller class sizes, fewer annual standardized tests, and opposition to the expansion of private-school voucher programs and charter schools have become a rallying cry.
Highlights of success since the movement started:
- On Tuesday, educators in West Virginia declared victory after state lawmakers rejected a bill that would have opened the state's first charter schools, made it easier to fire teachers without considering seniority during layoffs, and used public dollars to fund private schools. Despite the death of the bill that sent them to the picket lines, the teachers will remain on strike on Wednesday.
- Teachers in Denver last week ended a 3-day walkout — the first strike there in 25 years. Their union and the city’s public school system reached a deal to add $23 million to fund a 7–11% increase in base salaries next year, as well as a 20-step salary hike schedule.
- Last month, LA teachers representing the country's second largest school district reached a tentative deal to conclude a 6-day strike. They agreed upon a 6% raise, a significant concession from the school district on standardized tests, and promises of smaller class sizes, additional nurses and counselors.
- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation last May to increase teachers' wages by 20% over the next three years. However, the deal fell short of initial demands.
- Oklahoma’s largest teachers union ended a walkout last April that closed public schools statewide for 9 days after negotiating $479 million in funding for the next school year. They were seeking $600 million.
Other states that have gone on strike over the past year include Illinois and Colorado. In Kentucky, teachers lauded a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court last December after it struck down a controversial pension reform law, which has prompted thousands of teachers to protest and close schools.
What's next: Thousands of teachers in Oakland will protest Thursday over the district’s plan to close several dozen schools serving predominantly black and Latino students. They are also seeking salary increases and funding for resources.