Teachers in Oakland, California, will be going on a one-day strike Friday to protest school closures the district has planned for this year and next year. A teachers' union said the Oakland Unified School District is going back on a 2019 agreement with the closures.
The Oakland Education Association, a union made up of nearly 3,000 educators including teachers, counselors and social workers, said the school district and the union made an agreement to end a strike in 2019 which requires the district to engage in at least one year of community engagement and engagement with stakeholders before any school is considered for closure.
"The district ignored that agreement. And early this year, the majority school board hastily passed a resolution to close three schools for this year, the 2022 school year. And they have voted to close seven schools for the 2022 - 2023 school year," Keith Brown, the president of the Oakland Education Association, told ABC News.
The district says this agreement did not happen, according to a letter that Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell sent to the community.
"As for the statement that the District previously bargained the issue of school consolidations as part of the negotiations to end the February 2019 strike, it is demonstrably untrue: The list of negotiated items, as delineated in the fact finding report, leading up to the 2019 strike does not include school consolidations," the letter said.
According to Brown, the district currently has 85 schools. The closures will impact thousands of students, he said.
"Closing schools hurts families and it hurts neighborhoods," Brown said.
The district called the strike "illegal" in the letter it sent out, saying OEA can not strike on the basis of an unfair labor charge it has brought against the school district over school closures because there has not been a final ruling on the charge.
"The District is pursuing all legal means to prevent this action from happening. We are hoping that OEA will change course, but we are also putting plans in place in case the strike occurs," Johnson-Trammell said in the letter.
She added, "We respect the rights to collectively bargain, protest, and disagree with District decisions. But it must be done within the bounds of the law. We have and will continue to strongly urge OEA to reconsider its illegal activity."
The district asked parents not to send their kids to school due to the anticipated absences.
Brown said closing schools puts a burden on families to find means for transportation to find schools outside of their neighborhoods.
"There's a recent Stanford study that shows that closing schools impacts black students and accelerates gentrification in communities of color," Brown said, citing a study released by the Stanford Graduate School of Education on March 28.
The district argues that school closures will save money, Brown said. "But studies have shown that school closures [do] not save a significant amount of money for school districts," he said. "The district claims that there's a budget shortfall and there's no choice but to close schools. But there's always a choice and we must make a choice for for our students."