Tallying the Final Strike Costs In Oakland and Hoping for a Way Forward

Thankfully the Oakland teachers’ strike is over and kids and teachers are back in buildings. This was a painful time in Oakland for many of us, and there is still healing that needs to happen.  There are tangible and intangible costs to this all—and while we can calculate the lost revenue to OUSD, lost salary to teachers, and lost learning time of students, we may not be able to quantify the costs to the community so easily.  These losses are worth it if we take the next step, to Sacramento for more, and more equitable, funding.

If the movement stops here, I fear all the energy and action may have been in vain when measured against the costs.

A $16 Million revenue loss to OUSD

This was a costly strike, by my calculations OUSD lost roughly $16,466,396 in state funding because 94% of the 36,268 students reportedly stayed home.  OUSD is paid roughly $69 per child based on daily attendance, and when students don’t show, they don’t get paid.  OUSD didn’t have to pay staff so the estimates of the net loss was around a million a day.  A broke ass district lost at least $7,000,000.

Teachers “lost” their bonus, lost on annual raises, and lost over $7 million in total wages

The final settlement on salary was an 11% raise over 4 years with a 3% bonus.  The District’s last pre-strike offer was 8.5% over 3 years.  According to the EB Times the average per day pay of teachers is $339.50, based on an average salary of $63,149 and working 186 days.  So, a 7 days strike cost the average teacher $2,376.50.  While the 3% bonus equals $1894.47.  On average teachers lost $482.03 this year.

A quick look at the final raises probably does not keep up with the cost of living and is less than OUSD’s prior offer.  11% over 4 years equals a 2.75% raise per year.  The district’s last offer was 8.5% over 3 years which is an average raise of 2.8%, though for a shorter time.  Bay area inflation was at over 3% last year so neither offer kept up with that.

If we look at the overall loss to the roughly 3,000 educators who were striking, times the average costs of a 7 day strike.  There was $7,129,500 in unpaid wages.

So our underpaid staff, lost money on the strike, got lower annual raises that the last pre-strike offer, and even that raise will likely fail to keep up with cost of living.  Plus, they lost over $7 million in wages.

Students lost over 71 million instructional minutes

California requires roughly 300 instructional minutes per day, depending on grade level.  If 94% of 36,268 OUSD students were absent for the entire strike they lost a total of 71,593,032 instructional minutes.  I am sure many of these students will now be classified chronically absent as well.

OUSD is one of the lowest performing districts in the state with immense equity gaps, and some of the highest needs students, they won’t get this time back.

The Cost to Community

The strike pitted family against each other in the struggle for crumbs.  Parents reported harassment as they dropped students at schools, scuffles ensued at multiple hotspots, and administrators and some teachers who went to work caught hell too.   A broke ass district and broke ass staff squared off, with parents and kids in the middle—or being forced to pick sides.  Now we are back in school together, with less restorative justice resources, and fewer supports for our most challenged students.

This is not blame either side, it really is the system in California that creates these conditions.  Most everyone understands why teachers were on strike, the question we are left with is what changes for students.

As the superintendent said, we do need to heal, but we also need to pivot away from this cannibalistic politics of scarcity.  This has us pitted against each other.  We need to align to go after the real targets, which should be up in Sacramento, and maybe the city, in demanding that we adequately and equitably fund education in the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world.

If we don’t take the next step, I wonder whether the strike’s cost exceeded the benefits.  And I know we will be back in this same place again in a year or two, all the while, the district is cutting to the bone.  If we can walk together for the next steps, and change the funding system, then the strike is an undeniable success.

As for now the jury is still out.



What do you think?

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