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Oakland Teachers Go On Strike

February 16, 1996

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Oakland public school teachers went on strike Thursday. Administrators vowed to keep schools open with management and substitutes, but most of the district’s 50,000 students stayed home.

The 3,500-member Oakland Education Association has been working without a contract for more than a year. Class size, salaries and the early retirement program have been key sticking points.

``If we win, which we will, what we’ll end up doing is teaching all of our kids, not just half of them or one-third of them,″ said math teacher Zahi Khamis.

District spokeswoman Sherri Willis blamed the union for the walkout; the strike followed a week of sluggish talks.

The two sides remained roughly $7 million apart in total salary offers. and adopting the teachers’ proposal to cut class size would cost the district roughly $16 million more than it can afford, Willis said.

The school district says it’s doing all it can to pay its current bills. Five years ago, it was near bankruptcy and placed under partial state control. Only last summer was the district declared financially fit enough to manage itself again.

``The critical issue is money,″ said Willis. ``We’re not willing to compromise our newly won fiscal soundness by offering higher salaries and lower class sizes than we know we can afford.″

While the district’s 87 schools remained open, word of the walkout spread early enough for students to follow suit. Only one of every eight students showed up for class, the district said.

The two sides disputed how many teachers showed up for work. The district said roughly 23 percent were in class; the union’s figure was between 12 and 15 percent.

Both sides agreed to a mediator’s request to meet again Saturday.

The union representing teachers, school counselors, psychologists and librarians staged a two-day strike in November and a one-day walkout Jan. 30.

This time, no ending date for the walkout was announced.

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