Updated: Oakland Teachers’ Union Talks Unravel

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The Oakland teachers’ union abruptly ended contract talks with district officials yesterday and said it would not continue bargaining, according to district spokesman Troy Flint. Oakland schools Superintendent Tony Smith said in a statement that he was “disappointed” in the teachers’ union decision. He noted that under the latest budget proposal from Governor Schwarzenegger, Oakland schools will have to cut $100 million from its unrestricted budget next year — following $40 million in cuts in the past two years.

Teachers’ union President Betty Olson-Jones did not immediately return a phone call for comment. But the union has been unhappy that district officials have refused to offer raises. Oakland teachers are the worst paid on average in Alameda County. The union held a one-day strike last month as a protest.

In his statement, Smith said he hoped to give teacher raises in 2012. Flint said the district offered a 2 percent raise for that year, while the union requested an 8 percent increase over three years. The union then decided that the two sides were too far apart to make more bargaining productive, Flint said.

Smith has maintained that Oakland has too many schools and that it cannot afford higher pay until it closes some of them. As the Express has reported, the district has the fewest number of students per school in the county and has at least 30 more schools than it can afford.

In April, district officials cut off bargaining with the union and unilaterally implemented a contract that calls for no raises. However, the district then decided to return to bargaining in an attempt to hammer out a new agreement.

Update: Oakland teachers' union President Betty Olson-Jones said the decision to end talks was "mutual" between the union and the district. "We were so, so far apart," she said, "we didn't think we could reach an agreement."

Olson-Jones also said the union's proposal for an 8 percent raise was effectively for four years, because teachers did not receive a raise this year.

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