Oakland Teachers Return to the Classroom

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TEACHERS weary from walking picket lines for five weeks seemed happier about getting back into classrooms than their ratification of a new contract.

"I'm tired. It's been a long fight and a long uphill battle," said elementary school teacher Ethel Smith. "I don't feel very jubilant, even though we have an agreement. There's nothing to celebrate."

Ms. Smith echoed the sentiment of many teachers Tuesday night who voted for the contract, which included bonuses, a total 22 percent raise over four years, reduced class size for some grade levels, and cuts in administrative spending.

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While most teachers said the contract did not go far enough, the alternative - maintaining the picket lines - was not an option.

Union members walked out Feb. 15 after working without a contract for more than a year.

Although all 87 Oakland schools remained open during the strike, 80 percent of the district's 50,000 students stayed home or went to special schools set up by striking teachers.

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