Save Our Oakland Schools Reply to Oakland Unified School District from the Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School
The People's School is a symbol of exactly the opposite of what Tony Smith and the school board have been doing. The school, now in its third week of instruction, has been providing education to between 25 and 30 students with no other opportunity, particularly those in the black and brown communities, that have been hardest hit by Smith's harsh school closures and other cuts in essential programs.
This fight will continue. The People's School remains open, its classes now held directly across the street from Lakeview Elementary. Unlike Tony Smith, we keep our word. We will host rallies and events, and we will use our power as a community to make sure that Lakeview is not converted into administration offices.
We have asked the Alameda Labor Council to sanction a community labor picket line at Lakeview. We call on the tens of thousands in Oakland concerned with public education and with the criminalization of black and brown youth to come out in force to support us. We demand that Lakeview and the other four closed elementary schools be reopened immediately.
We will act now to mobilize an immediate mass response:
Today (Tuesday, July 3) at 5PM we will assemble in front of Lakeview Elementary for a mass rally and march to continue the fight to keep those five elementary schools open and to fully fund quality public education.
This Sunday (July 8) at 6PM, we will host a mass convergence, performance (featuring Boots Riley), rally, and open mike at Splash Pad Park (directly across from the school).
We will organize relentlessly to take the campaign to keep neighborhood schools open and fully fund quality public education out to the community. We will campaign to oust current school board members and replace them with candidates completely opposed to the program of austerity and cuts, and who will fight to fully fund quality public education at the expense of the rich and powerful, not by cutting education and other essential services at the expense of those who can least afford it.
Information updated frequently at our blog.
Ohanian Comment: I note that the official statement from the Oakland Unified School District trying to justify the closing of Lakeview Elementary School is available in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Arabic, as well as English. Four California cities rank in the top ten of highest income locales (by per capita income) in the US: Woodside (4),
Portola Valley (7), Newport Coast (8), Hillsborough (9).
Woodside, Portola Valley, and Hillsborough are all in San Mateo County, barely more than a stone's throw from Oakland. Newport Coast is in the south--in Orange County. Their school announcements are in English.
Parents in wealthy districts form foundations to fund their schools. That way, the money that should be going for increased taxes to fund all public schools is earmarked for the schools their children attend.
Writing at Socialist Worker, Oakland Education Association member Jessie Muldoon makes the critical point that this sit-in is about much much more than one school.
Lakeview Elementary sit-in: Oakland schools police order crowd to disperse
By Katy Murphy and Anna Gallegos Oakland Tribune
June 19, 2012
OAKLAND -- Days into a sit-in to protest the closure of Lakeview Elementary School, the Oakland school district police force is ordering the demonstrators to clear the area.
"We're hoping the crowd will disperse on its own accord," district spokesman Troy Flint said on Monday morning.
But well after the stay-away order was issued, around 5 p.m., about 80 protesters -- many of them from the Occupy movement -- still rallied outside the school.
Protesters started the "People's Campus" -- summer courses teaching art, gardening and social justice in the closed school. Nearly 40 students were enrolled in the classes that are not affiliated with the district, but only seven children arrived.
"Unfortunately, the campus police from Oakland Unified School District scared the parents and children away, and they are not here," said Joel Velasquez, a parent leading the sit-in. "We're going to educate your children and show how education should look like."
Monday morning, organizers said that they would stay on the campus "until something changes." They were joined by more protesters later in the afternoon and were asking for Superintendent Tony Smith to resign. They are planning a noon Saturday at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Lakeview is one of five elementary schools which the Oakland school board voted last fall to close at the end of the year as part of a downsizing plan; Smith said the $2 million a year in estimated savings would result in
more money for the remaining schools. But supporters of Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe elementary have argued those savings are not worth the pain and disruption that closures cause families and teachers. (Families at Lazear have managed to keep their school open by converting it into an independently run charter school; on Friday, the Alameda County Board of Education approved the charter application on appeal, though it's unclear whether the school will be able to remain at its current location.)
Over the weekend, supporters rallied outside of Lakeview, demanding that the school district change its decision. The marquee at the Grand Lake Theater, just across the street from Lakeview, reads: "Why is Oakland closing schools while squandering millions on consultants/ Support the sit in at Lakeview school."
Flint said the district administration allowed the sit-in to continue over the weekend, as school closures are "a legitimate civic issue to protest."
The district will maintain its headquarters on Second Avenue, but plans to move some offices to Lakeview.
Still, he said, "While we recognize that the demonstrators are extremely upset about the decision, it's one that we feel is in the best interest of the district at this point. We are not going to reverse course."
Dinner and a Movie at the Lakeview Sit-In
Sunday, July 1st -- 6 pm
Dear friends, comrades, neighbors, and colleagues,
Please join us to celebrate Day 16 of the Lakeview Sit-In and the People's School with a community potluck and film screening this Sunday, July 1, at 6 pm. For two weeks now we've been running a free summer program out of occupied Lakeview Elementary, serving over 30 children with programming in social justice, art, PE, and gardening. At the same time, we've been organizing to pressure Tony Smith and the school board to reopen all five closed elementary schools, repudiate the state debt, stop busting teacher and school workers' unions, reverse the cuts to special education, and fully fund public education for every student. This Sunday, we kick back and grub. The potluck starts at 6 pm at the People's School (746 Grand Ave), followed by a screening of "The Inconvenient Truth behind Waiting for Superman." Please bring a dish or a non-alcoholic beverage to share.
In love and solidarity,
The Lakeview Sit-In and People's School for Public Education
About Save Oakland Schools:
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by Jack Gerson
The parent-teacher-community sit-in and People's School for Public Education at Lakeview Elementary, now entering its third week, continues to gather support. By the end of its first week, Oakland Unified School District administration had already felt enough heat to post a Media Advisory on their web site trying to justify the closure of five neighborhood elementary schools, including Lakeview.
OUSD admits that "School closure is a painful step", but insists "By consolidating into fewer schools, we can invest in better, richer programs for children and families."
But Tony Smith and the school board are doing the opposite. Rather than creating "better, richer programs", OUSD is shutting down essential programs, programs that especially serve those most in need: the black and brown communities, students with special needs, single mothers, immigrants, and jobless adults. The school closures are only the latest step in downsizing of Oakland public education launched under the state takeover of OUSD (2003 -- 9) and continued under the Smith administration.
Since Tony Smith became Superintendent three years ago, OUSD has:
These program cuts, coming on top of the severe downsizing and privatizing under the state takeover (when many secondary school libraries were closed, counselor positions, electives, and vocational programs eliminated, and private contractors and charter schools ushered in), explain why, year after year, OUSD violates the state education code mandate that 55% of educational expenses go to classroom instruction. That's the law, and OUSD administration repeatedly breaks it by diverting money to consultants and vendors that ought to be going to classrooms and kids. "Better, richer programs"?
The OUSD statement makes similarly hollow assertions about why they're closing schools. According to OUSD, declining enrollment in the district has left them no alternative but to close public schools. This might be believable -- if not for the fact that OUSD administration itself has been responsible for much of the decline in enrollment. Over the past decade, charter school enrollment in Oakland quadrupled (from 2,037 in 2002 to over 8,000 this year) and it's going up again next year. Oakland has by far the highest proportion of students in charter schools of any urban school district in California, and the district has encouraged this trend. If those 8,000 students were going to public schools, there would be no under-enrollment problem at Lakeview or the other schools the district is trying to close.
OUSD says that one of the main reasons for closing Lakeview is that too few students live within half a mile of the school. This might be believable -- if OUSD were sending the displaced students to schools within half a mile of home. But they're being sent more than five miles down the road -- to Burkhalter Elementary. Or consider that the shutdown of Santa Fe Elementary means that there will be no public elementary schools north of Macarthur Boulevard and west of Shattuck Avenue. Students from this predominantly low-income black and brown area are being assigned to schools near the Oakland Coliseum, more than 10 miles away.
The OUSD Media Advisory also cites low test scores as a reason for closing Lakeview. This is disingenuous. The focus on high stakes test scores is used to punish schools in low income communities: it's well establish that student test scores are primarily a function of parents' poverty level. Nevertheless, Lakeview test scores actually increased, a remarkable achievement "as even Tony Smith admits" because the poverty level of Lakeview parents has increased.
The Smith administration has frequently repeated the claim that the school closings will save the district two million dollars. Two million dollars is not small change, but it is less than one half of one percent of the district's overall expenditures. Smith and the board could have found the money to keep the schools open -- had they been so motivated. Here's proof: at last Wednesday's meeting, the board overrode Smith's recommendation and restored $1.75 million in program cuts to the Special Education program They were moved to do so by a powerful protest from Special Education parents and teachers. Smith recommended the cuts earlier this month after discovering a bookkeeping error that caused underestimation of expenses and therefore overestimation of available funds. But when the board voted to close the five elementary schools last October, they were unaware of that bookkeeping error. So they could have instructed Smith to allocate the $2 million needed to keep the schools open -- just as they did for Special Education this past week. They could have kept the schools open. They chose not to do so.
Furthermore, the $2 million figure does not allow for the cost of installing portable classrooms to accommodate students displaced from the closed schools, which alone exceeds $2 million. Nor does it take into account the consequent loss of valuable outdoor space and the psychic and social costs of crowding students into large classes and overcrowded buildings. We all know -- or rather, we all should know -- that real schools and classrooms are incomparably preferable to portables, and that overcrowding schools hurts student learning and overall well being.
If they mean what they say about students coming first, and if they mean what they say about investing in "broader, richer" programs, there's a simple way to prove it. Cut back on bloated administrative pay: make teachers' maximum salary the maximum salary in the district. That would save on the order of $10 to $20 million -- enough to reopen all five elementary schools, restore all the cuts to Special Education (the board approved Smith's heartless recommendation to cut $2.1 million from the Special Education transportation budget), and get at least a running start at reopening libraries, restoring cuts to electives and to the early childhood program, reinstating custodians, counselors, and clericals, and starting to get the Adult Education program back on its feet. (But who would work for such a pittance, you might ask? Teachers. Clericals. Custodians. Instructional aides. . . All schoolworkers do. Why can't administration?)
Tony Smith and the school board pass along the pain demanded by the Wall Street bankers, the Billionaire Boys Club, and the other powerful forces that are cutting public education to the bone as part of their deep cuts to so many of the essential programs that working families depend on in every area of life. It's called "austerity", and it's the rich and powerful demanding that we pay for the crisis of their financial system -- here, in Greece, Spain and the rest of Europe, and around the globe.
This society's priorities are upside down, but Tony Smith and the school board never challenge them. Smith and the school board aren't out there fighting for more money. They're not prioritizing classrooms and kids over executive administrators and consultants. They don't resist making the cuts. They just decide where to stick the knife.
We say, "Bail Out Schools and Essential Services, Not Banks". No more multi-trillion dollar handouts for the bankers. Make them pay for what we need.
We say, "Repudiate the $100 million-plus state debt". The state ran up 2/3 of that debt -- $70 million worth -- when it ran OUSD under the state takeover (2003 -- 2009). They ran up that debt while closing schools and school libraries, while laying off support staff, cutting the number of nurses and counselors, eliminating electives and vocational programs. Where did the money go? To consultants and vendors; to highly paid central office "Executive Directors". The working and poor people of Oakland are being told that their children must suffer for the state's handouts to the private sector. We say, enough!
The sad truth is that the Tony Smith administration is taking public education apart and closing it down, piece by piece. Their statement is an exercise in public relations spin. Don't buy it. Stand with, support, and join the fight to stop the school closures and fully fund quality public education in Oakland. Join with us at the Lakeview sit-in and People's School for Public Education.
1. Don't Close the 5 Schools! Keep All Neighborhood Schools Open!
2. Stop Union Busting: Defend the OEA and All School Worker Unions
3. Refuse to Pay the Debt: Demand the District Call on the Banks to Bailout Schools!
4. Fully Fund Quality Public Education for All!
5. Demand Tony Smith Re-Open the 5 Schools or Resign: Re-Open or Resign!
Visit our blog at http://www.saveoaklandschools.org
For more information contact:
Jack Gerson firstname.lastname@example.org
Joel Velasquez email@example.com
Jack Gerson and reporters
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