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Oakland school district, teachers break off talks over new contract

Union demands 8% increase over 3 years at cost of $10.4-million annually, district says

The union that represents about 2,800 Oakland teachers and other public school employees said Tuesday that contract talks have broken off due to sharp differences over compensation and other issues.

Betty Olson-Jones, the president of the Oakland Education

Association, said, "Both sides demonstrated a willingness and commitment to settle their differences" but the negotiations "remain very unsettled in critical areas."

Among those areas are special education class sizes, the continuance of the adult education program and caseload limits for nurse and counselors, she said.

Olson-Jones said there is still "a vast chasm" between the parties over teacher compensation. More than two years of contract talks have been unsuccessful so far.

On April 21, Oakland's school board voted to impose a new contract on the union, which represents counselors, nurses and librarians in addition to teachers. The union responded by staging a one-day strike on April 29.

On May 4, union members voted to authorize another strike if contract talks aren't successful. Face-to-face bargaining resumed on May 13 for the first time since December.

But talks broke off Monday night, which was the fourth bargaining session.

School district spokesman Troy Flint said the district, which previously wanted to freeze teachers' wages because of its precarious financial situation, increased its proposed package to offer a 2 percent increase over the course of a three-year contract that would begin July 1. But he said the union asked for an 8 percent increase over three years, which he said would cost the district $10.4 million annually.

Olson-Jones said that negotiations for a new contract have now been suspended, and the union is continuing to talk with the school district about other issues, such as a new strategic plan.

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