Oakland Schools Empty Amid Teacher Strike As District Loses Bid With State Board To Stop Labor Action

Hundreds of teachers, students and parents walked picket lines at Oakland’s public schools Friday in a one-day strike over controversial school closures to save money.

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While the district’s nearly 80 schools remained open during the labor action, officials said there weren’t enough substitutes, administrators or other staff to accommodate or keep students safe and so urged families to keep their children home for the day.

While other unionized district workers were not directly participating in the strike, many were expected to be absent Friday as well, with their labor leaders advising them to notify supervisors that they wouldn’t feel safe given the picket lines.

The strike is just the latest challenge for Oakland Unified. It comes months after Oakland teachers planned a “sickout” during January’s Omicron wave, prompting the district to cancel classes and angering some families. It also comes two years after schools shut down due to the pandemic, forcing Oakland families to endure one of the longest school closures in the country.

Oakland Unified said in a statement that a state board had denied the district’s effort to get an injunction to stop the one-day strike. Spokesman John Sasaki said while the district is “disappointed” in the decision, it “will continue to put the needs of kids first and do what it thinks is best for them.”

On Friday morning, about 20 students and teachers were marching in front of Oakland Technical High School just after 8 a.m., carrying signs and chanting, “Hey, hey, ho ho, school closures have got to go.”

The 2,000-student high school was otherwise quiet.

Junior Satya Zamudio took a break from marching with friends to speak about her opposition to closures.

“We’re so disappointed in what our district is doing,” she said. “It’s very blatant the district doesn’t care about what we say.”

Kaia Palmquist, also in 11th grade, said her statistics professor has been talking to them about the closures in class, about the costs and other ways to save money, like “turning off the lights at night.”

“OUSD isn’t supposed to be a profitable organization,” she said. “They’re treating us like a company.”

Her statistics teacher, Errico Bachicha, was also on the picket line.

“It doesn’t make any sense to effect so many students to save $4 million,” he said. “Among the many things wrong with closing schools is how it will disrupt education. There’s been enough school closures to know it will make things worse.”

Oakland Education Association officials said 75% of the union’s 2,300 educators who participated in the strike vote, supported the one-day walkout, although they declined to say how many teachers submitted a ballot.

District officials said the strike was illegal while union leaders argued they were striking over unfair labor practices related to the school board’s decision to shutter schools without consulting with the community.

The school board voted in February to close or merge 11 schools over the next two years, a decision made in large part to address the district’s declining enrollment and ongoing overspending, which could leave the district in financial ruin in the years to come. The district has lost about 15,000 students over the past 20 years.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

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