Last Thursday, Oakland teachers went on strike to demand better conditions for both students and employees. Berkeley High School teachers joined the protest to show support for their fellow educators — and you should too.
These teachers are part of a nationwide movement of educators fighting for public education. Just like the teachers who went on strike in Los Angeles, Oakland teachers are advocating for better wages, smaller classroom sizes and funding for classroom supplies — all of which are geared toward improving the livelihood of teachers, counselors and nurses who help ensure that students receive the education they deserve. So now, after nearly two years of negotiations, it’s time for the Oakland Unified School District board to meet its teachers on these important demands.
Oakland teachers are paid a salary that’s significantly lower than that of teachers in other Bay Area school districts — a starting salary of a mere $47,000. These educators deserve to have salaries that will allow them to survive the expensive cost of living in the Bay Area.
Rapidly rising housing prices in the East Bay are an immense burden on educators, often pushing them out of the region they work in. According to Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown, one in five teachers have to leave the district each year because of low pay. Oakland teachers are asking for a 12 percent raise over the next three years, rather than the district’s proposed 7 percent raise, to help offset these costs. It’s ridiculous that teachers must fight to live in the very community they serve.
In addition to living expenses, many teachers are forced to pay out of pocket for classroom supplies. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that between 2015-16, 94 percent of teachers used their personal finances to buy classroom supplies. It’s admirable that these educators are willing to put their own salary on the line to ensure their students are getting the resources they need. But it goes without saying that this burden should never fall on teachers — it’s on the district to ensure that students have adequate access to educational materials.
It’s true that part of the blame for these poor working conditions falls not just on the district, but on the inadequate funding local districts receive from the state. California is, quite frankly, failing to prioritize education funding — it ranked 46th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in education funding in 2017. That said, educators’ salaries and benefits shouldn’t come at the cost of insufficient state funding. The strikers’ demands are critical to their livelihood, and the district must give their employees the support they desperately need.
It’s promising that teachers from local schools, including Berkeley High School, joined the strike last Thursday with their fellow educators. And some Berkeley residents are taking the initiative to display their allyship for Oakland teachers by hosting rallies this week. But more Bay Area residents must actively demonstrate support for these important community members.
Education is a human right — one we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for dedicated educators. So to all Bay Area residents, this is a call to action: Join Oakland teachers in their effort to save public education.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.