More teachers and protesters packed the State Building in Oakland Thursday as negotiations between the Oakland teachers union and the school district appeared to go nowhere on the sixth day of the strike.
Security personnel at Elihu M. Harris State Office Building were unable to stop hundreds of demonstrators carrying picket signs, playing instruments and shouting demands of better pay for teachers, smaller class sizes and more resources for students.
"We are Oakland educators. We want justice for our students. We’re not asking anymore, we’re demanding," the union said.
Earlier in the day, protesters gathered at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza with giant banners that listed their demands. Comedian W. Kamau Bell joined them after he was walking around and saw the large crowd, he said.
"We need to support our public schools. I'm right here with you. Look, I know it doesn't matter whether your kids go to public schools or not, whether you have kids, whether you like kids, because stronger public schools leads to a stronger, better society," Bell said.
The group was able to get the Oakland school board to postpone a scheduled Wednesday meeting to Friday.
At the meeting, the board is expected to vote on the district's proposal to make $21.75 million in budget cuts for the 2019-20 school year, as the district says it faces a $56 million budget shortfall by 2020-21 if no reductions are made.
The district said in a statement, "These reductions are needed to prioritize investing in a raise for our Oakland Education Association members that will help students and teachers return to school as soon as possible.
"We are disheartened by tactics that directly interfere with the district's ability to give the teachers a raise and get students and teachers back into classrooms."
The teachers' strike began last Thursday after two years of failed negotiations between the union and the school district and likely will continue for a seventh day on Friday.
The teachers' union is seeking a 12 percent pay raise over three years, and the district previously offered a 5 percent raise over three years. But last week, the district made a new offer of 8.5 percent over four years.
However, OEA President Keith Brown has said that's still not enough to meet the union's demand for a living wage that addresses the high cost of living in Oakland.
The district said that on Monday it increased its offer to an 8 percent ongoing raise plus a 2 percent bonus for a total increase of 10 percent.
The district said, "Collectively, we could end this strike now. We look forward to receiving a new proposal from the OEA and remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement soon."