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Visalia Teachers Agree to Contract, but Oakland Educators Go on Strike
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 12 months ago on
May 4, 2023

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It’s shaping up as the year of discontent for teachers in California.

More than 3,000 educators and other workers in Oakland Unified School District struck on Thursday, alleging the district failed to bargain in good faith on a new contract that asks for higher salaries and more resources for students.

However, district officials said the schools are staying open for their roughly 34,000 students.

The Oakland strike comes on the heels of a three-day strike by Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and staff in March over salaries and working conditions.

Visalia Unified Teachers Agree to Pact

However, there is labor peace in Visalia Unified School District. The district and the Visalia Unified Teachers Association agreed Wednesday night on a tentative contract through the 2025-26 school year.

The new contract comes with a combined cost-of-living boost and salary increase totaling 10%. Union members will vote on the contract through Monday. If approved, the pact will be presented to trustees on Tuesday.

“We are pleased to have reached a comprehensive tentative agreement working with the VUSD negotiations team and to have accomplished that goal in record time.  We appreciate the collaborative spirit of our negotiations with (Visalia Unified),” said VUTA President Greg Price in a news release.

Said Superintendent Kirk Shrum: “I am proud of the good faith efforts of our bargaining teams, resulting in one of the earliest agreements ever reached and extraordinary investments in our teachers here in Visalia Unified School District.”

Fresno, Clovis Negotiations

Contract negotiations between Fresno Unified and the teachers union, Fresno Teachers Association, are ongoing but are showing signs of friction. The district said in a recent news release that FTA members were preparing for a strike authorization vote, which the union vehemently denied.

Meanwhile, the union is pushing for negotiating sessions to be open to the public and has been encouraging staff, parents, and students to speak about their concerns about school safety, staffing, and other topics at the board’s semi-monthly meetings.

FTA’s current contract, which was extended by a year because of the pandemic, is scheduled to end on June 30.

In neighboring Clovis Unified, the union representing school psychologists announced this week that the district and union have agreed that talks on the first-ever contract for those school workers is at an impasse. The district and Association of Clovis Educators are 1 percentage point apart in proposed salary increases but have defined their respective proposals as their “best and final” offers.

ACE was recognized as the school psychologists’ union representative last year. The union’s attempt to organize as the labor representative for the district’s teachers is ongoing.

High Housing Costs Frustrate Oakland Teachers

“Oakland’s teachers are the lowest paid in the Bay Area and have not had a new contract since prior to the pandemic,” the Oakland Education Association said in a statement. “Meanwhile, rising inflation and a steep rise in the cost of rent in the fast-gentrifying city is making it impossible for educators — especially new teachers at the bottom of the salary scale making $52,905 per year — to afford rent.”

The district is the second-largest school district in the Bay Area, where rents and housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland is more than $2,500, according to Rent Cafe.

Earlier, the district had expressed optimism in a Facebook post that they could reach an agreement.

“After six full days and nights of contract negotiations with the Oakland Education Association (OEA), we believe that a deal with our Teachers’ Union is within reach,” it said.

Teachers previously held a seven-day walkout against the Oakland district on April 29, 2022.

(GV Wire’s Nancy Price and Associated Press contributed to this story.)

 

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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