Oakland School District Union Backs Out Of Contract Agreement By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday February 21, 2006

With a possible teachers strike looming over stalled contract talks, the state-run Oakland Unified School District received a blow this week when the Service Employees International Union backed out of a tentative contract agreement that would have run through 2008. 

SEIU represents roughly 1,100 clerical workers, security officers, instructional assistants and early childhood education professionals in the Oakland district. 

SEIU and district officials had reached a tentative agreement last month that, in part, would have balanced proposed salary increases with a district-employee sharing of health care costs. 

At the time of the tentative agreement, OUSD State Administrator Randolph Ward praised “the hardworking men and women of SEIU … for working tirelessly to achieve a timely resolution that allows Oakland Unified to keep its commitment to improving classroom instruction and keeps us on the road to fiscal recovery.” 

But after SEIU officials reviewed district financial information contained in an independent fact-finder’s report on the district-teacher dispute, the union said that the proposals offered by the district were inadequate. It was not immediately known at this time as to when talks might resume. 

Meanwhile, the OUSD-teacher conflict continued to escalate. 

On Wednesday, teachers held an afternoon informational picket at the corner of International Boulevard and Fruitvale, passing out leaflets and holding up “Support Teachers” picket signs. 

And the Oakland Unified School District, which has been virtually inaccessible to the public since the state takeover and the hiring of Randolph Ward as administrator, began posting on its website what it calls a Daily Briefing of “the latest update on negotiations between Oakland Unified and the union representing Oakland teachers.” 

The briefing is produced by Alex Katz, recently hired as OUSD press secretary from his job as education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. In this week’s briefing, Katz disputes the independent fact-finder’s conclusions in the teacher’s dispute,  

In an item entitled “Fact Finder Flubs Basic Math, Badly Miscalculates District Finances,” Katz writes, “What the fact- finder report states regarding the district’s available finances is—in fact —incorrect. It suggests using one-time grants from the private sector as well as ‘restricted’ funds for salaries. To do either would be both illegal and financially unsound (and isn’t that how we got here in the first place). So, the district will continue to rely on financial data provided by the fiscal experts with the statutory authority to review and audit district finances.”