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'Race to the Top' - the view from Oakland

Ohanian Comment: Kudos. A union leader willing to speak up about the "serious strings" attached to the Race to the Top Funds. Camp followers to the corporate politicos are just grabbing for the money today and to hell with tomorrow.

Betty Olson-Jones

We applaud Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums for refusing to join the Race to the Top parade by not signing the letter by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson ( Dellums ducks out of mayors coalition, Chip Johnson, Jan. 5).

Dellums should not be whipsawed into the frenzy just to run after more federal and state dollars that will do little to address the major issues of educational equity that we need in Oakland.

I was asked for the Oakland Education Association's opinion on the proposed letter and concurred with others that it would be a mistake to sign it. The lure of a minuscule amount of money is not justification for further decimating a compromised program in Oakland schools, especially when that money comes with serious strings attached.

Many talk about education reform but really seek to treat education like a business and students like test scores. They want to blame "failing schools" on teachers, denying the effects of poverty, language challenges, homelessness despair. They refuse to look at real funding reform that would provide the resources children and teachers need for an excellent public education. These same folks try to sell charter schools as a panacea for what's ailing our public schools, in effect setting up a separate and unequal system where students are often handpicked, dismissed if they're "not the right fit," and there is no accountability to democratically elected school boards.

Our students need and deserve far more. California ranks near the bottom in per pupil funding, and the "Race to the Top" won't change that. Only when our society puts its priorities in the right place, stops funding wars at the expense of education, health care and social services, and stops treating schools like businesses will we as a society fulfill our obligation to educate our children to be thinking, critical members of a democratic society.

Betty Olson-Jones is the president of the Oakland Education Association, representing nearly 3,000 teachers and other education professionals in Oakland.

— Betty Olson-Jones
San Francisco Chronicle


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