OAKLAND — Two weeks after the Oakland teacher's union made public a contract proposal that asked for 20 percent raises, smaller class sizes and more academic freedom, the state-run school district on Wednesday night came out with its own.

The district's initial proposal is vague about pay, merely stating that a balanced budget is crucial.

Instead, it addresses other provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, including what are known as the "bumping rights" of teachers who lose their jobs because of a school closure or layoff.

Under the proposal, those teachers would still have the right to a teaching position, but they would no longer have the same hiring priority, based on seniority, that they currently do.

"We want to balance our concerns about the fact that this teacher is displaced with the need to make sure there is a good match between the teacher and the school," said Troy Christmas, director of employee management and labor relations for the Oakland school district.

District staff also proposed to simplify the teacher evaluation process, which Christmas described as "broken," and change the scope of the counseling work to focus on at-risk students.

The union, which represents some 3,000 teachers, counselors and nurses, held a rally before the meeting and lined up to speak to the state administrator about its proposal.


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In addition to a raise, the Oakland Education Association aims to reduce class sizes in its lowest-performing schools to 15, roughly half of the maximum size for grades 4 and above, and to cap the class sizes and case loads in special education.

Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, and others say higher salaries and better working conditions will stem the district's turnover rate. Last year, about 14 percent of Oakland's classroom teachers left the district. Increasing taxes on the Port of Oakland and other businesses, statewide, were among the solutions the union has proposed forincreasing available funding for schools.

Olson-Jones said she knew the demands would be perceived by some as unrealistic, given the state budget deficit and Oakland's state takeover and fiscal recovery. A financial shortfall landed the district in state receivership in 2003, and the state department of education is still in charge of the school district's finances.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a 10 percent cut to all programs, including a $4 billion reduction in education funding. If it goes through, Oakland public schools will face at least $11 million in cuts for the 2008-09 year, CFO Leon Glaster reported Wednesday night.

Most of the audience left before Glaster gave his report on the impact of Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts. Still, Olson-Jones and others said they wanted the discussion to revolve around what the school system needs, rather than the budgetary limitations.

"We're not here to carry on a conversation about scarcity," she said. "We're tired of standing here to say that we will continue to do more with less."

In his presentation, Christmas said that staff agreed with the teachers about the needs of the school district, but he suggested that the push should take place at the state level.

"I think it is the right place to start with what you believe is needed to have a quality education," Christmas said, addressing the teachers in the audience. "I'm concerned that the audience you're speaking to is not the audience who can get done what needs to get done."

Contact Katy Murphy at kmurphy@oaklandtribune.com or call her at (510) 208-6424. Read her Oakland schools blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/education.