OAKLAND — The Oakland teachers union announced Tuesday that mediation failed to bring about a contract agreement between its bargaining team and the school district administration. Once mediation officially ends, the union will be one step closer to the possibility of a strike — an outcome that was narrowly avoided in 2006.
In a news release, union leaders described the school district's final contract proposal as "unconscionable." District staff members would not comment on the specifics, saying both sides were still in mediation and bound by a confidentiality agreement, but union President Betty Olson-Jones said the district's proposal included no raises or cuts to the salary schedule.
"We understand there's a fiscal crisis, but teachers have got to see something," Olson-Jones said.
The district administration, which must cut at least $27 million from next year's general purpose fund because of ongoing state budget cuts, did take back its earlier proposals to reduce teacher pay by 3 percent and to cut preparation periods for elementary school teachers, Olson-Jones said.
Still, those concessions fell far short of the union's demands. The teachers union has asked for annual, 5 percent salary schedule increases for the next three years and for smaller class sizes at struggling elementary schools. Olson-Jones said she fears the language the district is proposing will lead to larger class sizes. She also said the district wants to eliminate the provision in the last contract that requires a minimum number of adult education teachers.
Once mediation ends, a third-party "fact-finder" produces a report with nonbinding recommendations; if an agreement hasn't been reached by then, the teachers can opt to strike.
District spokesman Troy Flint said the administration was still optimistic that a new contract will be reached without a strike. "I think in the past few months there has been a better shared understanding of the financial crisis we face at the district, state and national levels," Flint said. "I think we can use that understanding as the basis for an agreement."
The union plans to hold a rally at 4:30 p.m. today in front of the district headquarters.