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Oakland school closures

State board tells OUSD school closures violated labor law

on February 3, 2023

The Oakland Unified School District Board of Education’s decision last year to close or merge schools violated labor law, the California Public Employment Relations Board said in a proposed decision released this week. 

The PERB report says the decision to close or merge 11 schools violated the Educational Employee Relations Act — which establishes collective bargaining in California public schools and community colleges — because it was made “without providing notice and the opportunity to bargain the effects of that decision with the Oakland Education Association.”

The district will have 20 days to challenge the decision, or it will become final. 

The findings, dated Monday, come weeks after the newly elected school board voted to reverse the decision on Jan. 11, allowing five schools — Brookfield Elementary, Carl B. Munck Elementary, Grass Valley Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary and Korematsu Discovery Academy — to remain open and a sixth, Hillcrest K-8, to keep its middle school. The decision did not reverse the closures of Parker Elementary and Community Day School, which shuttered last spring. 

PERB’s proposed orders call for OUSD to negotiate with the teachers union regarding the effects of the decision to close schools, and restore all affected employees for any losses incurred because of the decision, plus interest at 7% annually.

John Sasaki, the district spokesperson, pointed out that PERB’s decision is proposed, not final. He declined to address the report, saying the district doesn’t comment on active litigation. 

In a news release Tuesday, OEA President Keith Brown said PERB’s ruling reflects what community members have been saying since the board voted last February to close schools: that the decision was “harmful to our most vulnerable families,” especially students of color.  

“It took a labor strike, a hunger strike by two district employees, 2,000 people attending OUSD board meetings and a handful of hearings to get to where we are at today,” Brown said.

He sees the ruling as an example of why it’s important for OUSD to honor grievances and respect the collective bargaining process. This comes at a critical time, as the OEA is currently in negotiations with OUSD regarding its successor bargaining agreement. 

Brown said an administrative law judge, in a closed hearing, will determine any specific damages OUSD owes union members. 

He added that the OEA is hopeful for the district after the board’s decision reversal and PERB’s proposed ruling.

“Teachers of Oakland are committed to making sure that we have safe and racially-just schools in our district, and we look forward to working with a school board that will keep our neighborhood schools open and also be fiscally responsible and make decisions in a transparent manner, bringing all stakeholders into the process such as parents and educators,” Brown said. 

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