Despite Budget Crisis, Oakland Teachers Demand 12 Percent Raise

school busWith 95 percent of Oakland Unified teachers already having approved a strike that appears likely to begin Tuesday, the school district could face weeks of turmoil – unless, like Los Angeles Unified leaders did last month, Oakland Unified agrees to give substantial raises to teachers. But there are outside experts that think the district can’t afford to provide the raises.

The teachers union – the Oakland Education Association – wants a 12 percent increase phased in over three years. The district has offered a 5 percent raise over three years. The union and district have been unable to agree on a contract since the last one expired in 2017.

That’s at least partly because Oakland Unified is in a financial bind that is worse than many other districts. It has the same problem as other districts in dealing with the increasingly heavy annual cost of the Legislature’s 2014 bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. The bailout – phased in from 2014 to 2021 – requires school districts to increase by more than 130 percent their annual contributions to CalSTRS.

But Oakland Unified also has seen among the sharpest enrollment drops of any state school district, falling from 54,000 to 37,000 since 2003. Because state funds depend on average daily attendance, this has wiped out many non-mandatory programs.

Schools kept open despite huge drop in enrollment

Yet Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and other district officials have been leery of closing schools because of parents’ concerns, leaving nearly 11,000 empty seats in often half-full schools. They’ve also failed to significantly reduce administration and support staff even as enrollment has dropped by more than 30 percent.

That may change soon. According to a Bay Area News Group report, to free up money for raises for the district’s 3,000 teachers, the Oakland school board is prepared to lay off 90 administrators and nearly 60 school support workers to generate annual savings of $21.75 million. Oakland Unified officials say that this will not only pave the way for labor peace, it will help reduce the district’s structural deficit, which is otherwise on track to top $56 million by the 2020-21 school year. They have also vowed to follow through on staff recommendations that 24 schools be closed.

But a 2017 analysis by a state agency that helps school districts in financial distress raises a question that most local coverage of Oakland Unified doesn’t address: Can district staff be trusted to competently manage its $500 million-plus budget?

After looking at district budget information dating back to 2010, the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) depicted the district as on track to a “fiscal emergency” because of its slowness to acknowledge, much less respond to, obvious problems. It noted that the school board had approved pay raises – including boosts of about 15 percent for teachers from June 2014 to January 2017 – without first identifying how they would be funded. FCMAT also cited “constant turnover” in key positions; a lack of district supervision of how schools deal with spending decisions; and an “abundance of budget exceptions granted to sites and departments that overspend.”

District hoping for emergency state loan

In the short term, the district has taken steps to secure an emergency state loan of $34.7 million. But as the EdSource website reported in September, the district still hasn’t fully paid off the $100 million emergency state loan it got in 2003.

State officials may feel that for political reasons, they have no choice but to help Oakland Unified again. But as FCMAT and others have noted, the district’s enrollment is expected to keep plunging – even as pension obligations keep growing. A 12 percent raise for teachers would only make achieving fiscal stability even more daunting for district leaders.

L.A. Unified school board members heard similar warnings last month, but chose to provide a 6 percent raise to teachers –just shy of the 6.5 percent the teachers union had wanted.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Comments

  1. Teachers are amazing. They want to be treated as professionals in everything except dealing with “management” when it comes to pay. They do not want to be held to standards based on results. The students produce worse and worse test scores and their teachers will not even permit a review of which of those among them are totally deficient as teachers. Here we have teachers who will not permit a relationship to exist between the number of students and the number schools needed to teach them. With this collective grip on reality by these “professionals” is it any wonder that the results coming out of these unionized schools are less than stellar.

    • GET RID OF ALL THE TEACHERS, AND JUST HAVE ON-LINE SCHOOLS. LET EVERY WHO WANTS TO LEARN,TO PAY FOR IT, AND IF THEY CAN’T PAY FOR IT LET THEM LEARN ON THE JOB AS MOST OF US HAS DONE SINCE THE EARLY 1800’S. PERIOD.AND THEN THAT WILL BE EDUCATION FOR.

    • GET RID OF ALL THE TEACHERS, AND JUST HAVE ON-LINE SCHOOLS. LET EVERY WHO WANTS TO LEARN,TO PAY FOR IT, AND IF THEY CAN’T PAY FOR IT LET THEM LEARN ON THE JOB AS MOST OF US HAS DONE SINCE THE EARLY 1800’S. PERIOD.AND THEN THAT WILL BE EDUCATION FOR ALL

  2. Andy is right. Internet schooling is an idea whose time has come. To make up for the loss of votes the state could just lease more out of state cemeteries.

  3. Oakland should just reply: We’ll start paying you when you start teaching.

  4. Oakland has become an incredibly expensive place to live over the last 10 years, but teacher’s salaries have remained stagnant. They need a raise, so give it to them. We should take much better care of these people considering all they have to put up with (huge class sizes, dangerous environment, no support, shrinking arts and music programs, entitled parents, and of course you guys, the requisite conservative jerks trying to bad-mouth them at every turn).

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