Oakland Teachers Reach Tentative Contract Agreement With Salary Increases, Seniority Rights

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BERT JOHNSON / FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson / file photo
After months of tense negotiations, the Oakland teachers' union announced today that it has finalized a tentative contract agreement with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) — one that preserves seniority rights of instructors and establishes annual salary increases through 2016. The Oakland Education Association (OEA), the union, has just published a summary of the agreement for a three-year term through 2016-17.

In terms of the salary package, the contract agreement would give teachers an 8 percent guaranteed salary increase by January 2016. That comes from a 2 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2014; a 1 percent increase retroactive to February 1, 2015; a 2.5 percent increase effective at the end of this school year; and a 2.5 percent increase effective January 2016 (which is tied to a thirty-minute increase in work hours per week that goes into effect during the 2016-17 school year). 

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The agreement also resolves one of the most contentious issues in negotiations this year regarding how the district considers teachers' seniority when filling vacancies and reassigning instructors when their positions are eliminated due to declining enrollment, budget cuts, or school closures (see "The Battle Over Teachers' Seniority Rights," 2/25/15). According to the union, the new agreement — regarding a provision known as Article 12 — maintains seniority rights as the "decisive factor" in the district's placement decisions in those circumstances. The district, as I reported in February, had sought a substantial overhaul of this policy that would have largely removed the role of seniority in this process, so that schools would consider all candidates applying to fill vacant positions regardless of how long they have worked in OUSD. The district had also proposed a system that would allow outside candidates to compete alongside reassigned teachers for open jobs. 

You can read the union's comparison of the previous Article 12 language and new policy here. The new agreement appears to incorporate at least one element of the district's proposal — the establishment of site "personnel committees" made of parents and teachers that would review candidates and have the opportunity to make hiring recommendations. But if the committee chooses to select a teacher with less seniority, under the new agreement, the union said the teacher with more seniority can still "choose to exercise [his or her] seniority rights and take the position anyway, or continue in the process and see what other vacancies may surface." 

OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint declined to comment on the specifics of the agreement.

The announcement of the tentative agreement comes just weeks after teachers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike new year — meaning they would support a move to strike if the contract negotiations failed

The contract also establishes class-size limits — see Article 15 language here. In a late-night email to teachers, OEA president Trish Gorham said that the union successfully secured class-size averages that reach state mandates five years in advance and has also established improved counselor-to-student ratios — see Article 21 here. The union said the district-wide counselor-to-student ratio wwould now be 600-to-1 for sixth through twelfth grades and that counselors would not be required to serve more than three sites. 

For more on the agreement, check out OEA's executive summary, its summary of salary increases, the actual contract language on salary and benefits, and the union's written explanations of Article 12

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