Chapter 9 - The Betrayal
While there was never a doubt as to whether or not the teachers won the strike, some doubt existed as to whether or not others who participated won as well. In light of happiness and joyfulness about the new contract many teachers forgot to read closely about all the issues at hand. Ready to go back to work, financially drained, and probably willing to accept any type of gain, many teachers failed, in fact, to examine some crucial downsides to the contract; downsides that were hidden within some of the unclear parts of the contract and others that were excluded completely from the deal. These downsides, however, were noticed immediately by those who would be affected. Counselors and psychologists, as well as ardent smaller class size supporters and high school students all felt betrayed.
A part of the contract that was overlooked by many teachers included the fact that counselors who previously had an overwhelming 300 to one student-counselor ratio were now going to have to endure a 500 to one new ratio with the new contract. Also overlooked was the fact that some counselors, under the new contract, were going to be forced out of their offices and into classrooms where they had no desire to be. These overlooked issues were disturbing to counselors who had not only struck side by side with teachers but had also been promised again and again by the union that they would not be forgotten. As one teacher who voted "no" on the contract stated, "counselors got totally ripped off. They were with us 100% and then they were betrayed." Psychologists felt the same way about the contract. They were given no protection against the district and are now even facing lay-offs because the new contract fails to address issues which could protect them. "We feel horribly betrayed," said psychologist Valerie Lopez, "The union has betrayed us." This same psychologist, in fact, got up at the union hall on the night of the ratification of the new contract and expressed her concerns. She began crying and tried to explain that the contract wasn't fair to many of the workers.
The strike's motto "Classrooms First" was not fulfilled to the extent that many people desired either. There was not a great enough reduction in class sizes planned to make many parents and some teachers happy. One parent, Judi Burle, said, "I am disappointed. We wanted much stronger language for the class size." Others concerned about class size pointed out in the San Francisco Chronicle that "the contract does not guarantee smaller class sizes," it only, "includes an innovative plan to use federal and state money for desegregation to cut class size in the primary grades `to the best efforts of the parties' in the schools eligible for such funds." In other words there is no assurance that the classes will be reduced to the sizes outlined in the contract and there is no guarantee it will be implemented in all schools.
Perhaps some of the greatest losers when it comes to class sizes are the high school students. While high school students fought hard for smaller class sizes they were a division completely left out. If you read the contract closely you'll see kindergarten through fifth grade was covered with plans of possible future class size reductions, but middle school and high school students are totally excluded, there's not one word about them in the contract. The concerns about class sizes within high schools has now been denied consideration indefinitely. This is unfortunate considering the great support the students of high school brought out on behalf of the strike.
Footnotes 60 - 65
60. Cadambi, Malini, Free Radio Berkeley interview, "Freak Show," April 18, 1996.
61. Lopes, Valerie, as quoted by Michael Bazeley, "Finally, It's back to school," Oakland Tribune, March 20, 1996.
62. This took place on the night of March 19 at the vote for the proposed contract. There is no written documentation of this event, but all attending voters and present teachers can, and do, verify her reaction. Although Valerie Lopes tried to explain what was wrong with the contract she was out-numbered by the victors and made little impact as can be verified by the landslide contract victory.
63. As reported by Olszewski, Lori, "Oakland Strike Ends - Teachers OK Contract," San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 1996.
65. Information taken from the official contract between the Oakland Education Association and the Oakland Unified School District, March 20, 1996.