Oakland’s teachers union owes the district more than $400,000. Why hasn’t it paid?

The Oakland teachers union owes the city’s schools more than $400,000, a growing debt that the labor group has failed to pay for more than a year and during months of tense contract negotiations and a teacher strike in the spring.

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The debt by the Oakland Education Association started to mount in the 2021-2022 school year, with a few missed payments for the salary and benefits of district staff on leave for union work. Then, during the last school year, the labor group made no payments, despite receiving invoices from the district.

District officials say the union owes $403,434 for missed payments over the previous two school years.

State law requires unions to reimburse public agencies within 10 days of receiving the confirmation of payment for worker salaries and benefits.

The union also owes the district for the compensation paid this quarter, which is expected to be close to $100,000 for the three educators typically on leave, including the union president and other executive positions.

The debt exemplifies continuing tension between the district and the union, a relationship that has been strained and often vitriolic in recent years as the two sides negotiated a contract — an agreement achieved only after a divisive nine-day teacher strike at the end of the previous school year.

The two sides have repeatedly banged heads over a wide range of issues, including school closures and the district’s fiscal health as well as the union’s demands for reparations for Black students and the use of Oakland Unified facilities for homeless families.

The lack of payments means the district paid the salaries and benefits of union leaders through the months of negotiations and the strike without reimbursement.

While it’s a relatively small sum owed compared with the district’s $800 million annual budget, it’s one that can’t be ignored given the district’s responsibility to the 34,000 students, said school board President Mike Hutchinson.

“It is hard to accept that we are now subsiding OEA leadership,” noted Hutchinson, who said he was surprised when he recently learned of the default in payments. “This is money that should be used for classrooms or other educational purposes.”

Hutchinson said he is unaware of any reasons offered for the nonpayment, but said the requirement to reimburse the district is clear in the contract negotiated with the union.

Union officials declined to respond to specific questions about why the payments to the district haven’t been made, if they lack the funds to pay the amount owed, whether they would owe interest on the debt, and whether they dispute how much is owed. They instead criticized the district over unrelated issues.

“OEA is committed to working with the OUSD administration to rectify all billing errors, including the ongoing, alarming and significant District payroll errors that impact classroom teachers and school staff daily,” said union president Ismael Armendariz. “This school year alone, we’ve heard from more than 200 teachers, school psychologists, nurses, speech therapists who have had significant errors in their pay, including not receiving pay at all.”

Armendariz said the union will continue to meet with district officials on those issues and “hope to come to a resolution soon so that we can work together to provide the best possible education to Oakland students.”

District officials said the accounting team discovered the lapse in payments from the union during the year-end reconciliation process. 

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Comments

  1. PS unions have a hard decision to make. Pay out obligated funds or cut back on lavish junkets.
    Public Service Unions are nowhere in the Constitution. They have inordinate power in elections. They control the politicians that created therm. They make the rules for Both the privates sector and themselves.Tax payer money supports their efforts to take in more tax payer money. Nowhere can it be demonstrated where PS union demands have improved America.
    Get to work Supreme Court.

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