Stop Oakland School Closings!

Ronald Cruz September 30, 2011 Public Education Comments Off on Stop Oakland School Closings!
  • Public Education is a Right, Not a Privilege!
  • Keep All Oakland Schools Open!
  • We Won’t Go to the Back of the Bus!
  • Say No to the New Jim Crow
  • Keep Oakland Schools Public – No More Charters or Privatization!
  • No “Charter Zones” in East and North Oakland!
  • No class size increases, reduce overcrowded classes!
  • einstate all programs that have been eliminated, including counselors at Skyline and other schools, and Early Childhood Education Programs!
  • No New Jim Crow! No Stripped Down, Second-Class Education for the Young People of Oakland

Protest against Oakland school closingsThe Oakland School Boards plan to close and restructure schools is a fundamental attack on the young people of Oakland and our entire Oakland community. This school closure plan is driven by ideology and not financial necessity.

Every sugar-coated promise contained in the vacuous, jargon-filled plan is a lie. The most important thing to understand about the plan is that its actual intent is to achieve the opposite result of what is stated. When Supt. Smith says that this plan will save public education, he means it will destroy public education. When he says that a central aim of the plan is to strengthen neighborhoods, he actually means the aim of the plan is to drive poor and working class people out of their homes, neighborhoods and if possible Oakland itself.

Oakland has the ability to learn from Detroit’s and D.C.’s struggles how to win and this is an advantage we must not pass up. The most important lessons from all the cities that have already been targeted are two: 1) the only force in these struggles with the boldness and determination to win are the students and youth and 2) the biggest obstacles to victory are the impediments that sympathetic sounding adults who hold power over the young people: teachers, parents, principals, mentors, put in the way of the young people trying to fight and win.

Winning Public Education in Oakland

If the students lead, Oakland wins this fight quickly. If the teachers, parents, community, and unions insist on taking the lead and urge the youth to stay in school rather than walk- out, or wait to occupy a building until they reach college, or allow others to fight while they study in order to at some future point advance income and stability of the family, we are in for a long and costly fight.And of course, Supt Smith and the charter school consortium that concocted this plan know they are lying, because this same plan has already been implemented in New Orleans, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and other majority black and Latina/o urban areas.

The result has been the same everywhere: depopulation, a highly racially and socio-economically stratified and segregated public education system existing side by side with an equally second-class unregulated private charter school system and an end to comprehensive high school education for the vast majority of black and Latina/o youth.

Instead of closing the achievement gap between black and Latina/o and white students, the kind of plan Supt. Smith proposes will result in the re-institutionalization and hardening up of the new Jim Crow. Detroit and Washington D.C. have put up constant and determined resistance to the imposition of the “good schools”, “new leaders” plan on their schools and city. Oakland has the distinct advantage of having been protected from this scam until now.

If there is one place in the nation that can stop this plan, it is Oakland. We start this battle for the future of our city with two huge advantages, a leadership BAMN, that has political perspective and the know how needed to win, and a number of students who are veteran leaders of the new movement that has already scored important victories through mass independent actions.

History of BAMN’s fight in Oakland

In the fall of 2009 when UC Berkeley erupted into struggle to stop the first wave of fee hikes, Oakland students, teachers and community members threw themselves into the fight. By March 4, 2010, the day every Oakland school walked-out to defend public education in a coordinated District- wide “Disaster Drill”, Oakland students were leading UC Berkeley students in action and setting an example of how to fight and defeat the relentless attacks on public education.

We fought Gov. Schwarzenegger and defeated his proposed attacks on our schools. We fought the cuts slated for this year last spring and won. This fight will be our biggest test because we will be bucking not only the dictates of Gov. Brown, but for the first time challenging the policies of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Ironically our two biggest dangers now are assuming that because this is a fight over school closings and massive jobs that the unions will fight to win, and secondly confronting the reluctance of so many activists in our community to fight to win because it means taking on the Democrats and specifically Arne Duncan. The students and people of Oakland must understand that to win we can not rely on the union leaderships, the politicians or the myriad of community organizations who are tied politically and financially to the Democrats or their wealthy backers. They can not lead, but they can adopt all kinds of strategies that will sap our energy, demoralize young activists and lose.

The Teacher’s Unions

Every one of the assaults that are being carried out now on public education could have been stopped if the teachers’ unions had chosen to strike. However, the fact that Duncan and other Democratic Party leaders are pressing the attacks on public education has simply paralyzed the unions. Gov. Brown has been able to deliver more cost saving public education and service cuts to the banks, billionaires, and corporations during the economic recovery than Gov.

Schwarzenegger was able to at the worst point of the economic crisis, because no matter how egregious or unnecessary or fiscally disastrous the cuts are, Brown is certain the unions will go along. Oakland teacher’s union leaders and BAMN activists Mark Airgood and Tania Kappner will do everything in their power to get a teachers strike now before the damage is done, however it is essential for the students, parents and community to build mass actions now, even if the teachers cannot find the will to fight for their own jobs or ideals.

To win the students must lead. We will need militant mass actions like the mass actions organized to save early childhood education to win. A year ago when we were told that there was no money for early childhood education, we organized school occupations, community marches, and other actions that got Oakland mobilized. Fearful of the growing popularity and strength of our actions, Sacramento “miraculously” found the money to keep the centers open.

Brown is far more committed to this new multiple pronged plan. We need much greater political organization and clear and politically independent leadership to win. BAMN is the only organization that has proved in action that we can build the organization and provide the leadership to win. If we build BAMN as a mass democratic organization on its program, we win. If not, we lose.

Public Education at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley is starting to come alive again. Because of BAMN’s efforts we are for the first time in a decade poised to overturn Prop 209 and restore affirmative action. In the next few weeks Gov. Brown will almost certainly sign the California Dream Act, giving our new movement a great victory. We can build on that victory to defeat this attack.

Sometimes the rich and powerful forces with-in a society, heady from their many barely challenged victories against the oppressed, over-reach-go too far. And then all the accumulated anger pours out. Suddenly the veneer of invincibility of those on top is shattered and a new power emerges. Attacking the public schools of Oakland is a gross over-reach. Challenging the right of black, Latina/o, immigrant and poor Asian and white communities to stay in Oakland at all is also a gross over- reach. The youth of our city have not will not forgot the injustice done to Oscar Grant. They will not accept a future of hopelessness and despair.

Someone needs to restore sanity and decency in our society, and no one is better suited for this task then the oppressed youth of our city. Oakland can win this fight for ourselves, for Oscar Grant, for every undocumented family that lives under the constant threat of deportation, for Detroit and DC and every poor and proud urban center in America. We can finally give the oppressed the ability to determine the course of our nation. They brought the wrong fight to the right place. Let’s organize and win.

The School Closings Plan

Any plan to destroy a community’s public schools is a plan to destroy the life of the entire community. A look at the map of proposed Oakland school closings and consolidations for this year alone shows that no area of the city is left untouched. This is a fundamental attack on public education in the entire city with special emphasis on the black communities of East and North Oakland. But with Superintendent Smith and the Board promising that theirs is a “multi-year plan” – no one can doubt that this is a thoroughgoing attack on public education in the entire city.

In the end, if this plan is allowed to proceed, no community will be spared. It is part of a larger plan backed by the corporations and billionaires throughout the nation to return American cities into places where downtown and choice areas are reserved for only the wealthiest and most privileged.

There are six elementary schools on the list for closure this year — Sobrante Park, Marshall, Maxwell Park, Lakeview, Santa Fe, and Lazear. In addition, the Board plans to end the small schools at Fremont and Castlemont, and consolidate these campuses into single schools again. A huge swath of Oakland on either side of the 98th Avenue corridor in East Oakland would be left with no public schools nearby.

And North Oakland is put well on the road to a similar fate if the plan is carried through. Kaiser and Burkhalter Elementary have been removed from the closure list for now, but with Superintendent Smith and the Board threatening up to 30 additional school closings over the next two to three years, there is no really getting “off the list” unless we defeat this plan totally and together.

In addition, the Board is proposing to establish K-8 schools or even K-12 schools – merging Madison Middle School with Sobrante Park Elementary and Barack Obama Academy with Community Day School. Greenleaf, La Escuelita and Sankofa elementary schools are also scheduled to be expanded to include additional grade levels.

These kind of combined grade levels in one school almost never appear in suburban schools – and for good reason. It puts very young students in schools with adolescents, increasing the risk of both accidental and intentional physical harm including sexual assaults. Moreover it impairs the education of older students too by forcing them to remain in schools where the facilities and programs are designed for younger children.

The Board’s proposed school closing and restructuring plan will gravely harm the education of the students in Oakland both now and in the future. It threatens to close schools that have become vital anchors for children in some of the most socio-economically deprived neighborhoods of Oakland.

It would break up the teaching teams in these schools, disrupt parent participation, and threaten student safety by forcing younger students to travel longer distances and to attend schools with far older students in them. It perpetuates a downward spiral in which deficits justify school closings, which in turn drive students and families out of the District, creating further deficits and more closings. The District itself estimates the possible loss of students from closed schools as 20%. The District receives less state aid as it enrolls fewer students, thus sacrificing potential funding.

MASS MEETING to Stop the School Closings:

This Saturday, October 8th, 3:00-5:00PM
Main Branch Oakland Public Library – Downtown Oakland (125 – 14th St. near Lake Merrit)

All Out to the OUSD School Board Meeting

Wed. October 12

1025 Second Ave. / E. 10th St. (across from Laney College)

4 pm Rally, 5 pm Speak out in meeting

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