Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UPDATED: Lakeview Sit-In Raided in Late-Night Police Action

Oakland, CA—At 4am on Tuesday, July 3rd,
At 4:00am more than ten Oakland Unified School District police arrived at Lakeview Elementary and a few minutes later ordered the group of parents, teachers, and community organizers there to leave. The group had been sitting in there for 17 days, while conducting a popular People's School for Public Education at Lakeview Elementary to protest elementary school closures in Oakland. Lakeview Elementary is located at 746 Grand Ave. Oakland, across from the Grand Lake Theater. Please come down now if you are in Oakland and awake.

Joel Velazquez 510 473 5635
Jack Gerson 510 682 4381
Nick Palmquist 650 384 5581
Rebecca Rozo-Marsh 51073549
Visit our blog at saveoaklandschools.org

I posted the above earlier from my Blackberry but wanted to provide more context so I am reposting.

Jack Gerson was part of the "Another View in District 14" teacher group (which morphed into a caucus around 1974) I was involved in back in the early 70s when he taught in NYC. He's been an activist in Oakland for a long time as a high school teacher and union activist in a fairly progressive NEA local.

Before Jack sent the above out, he sent me this last night:
Hi Norm,

How are you? I guess the last time we've had contact was at the post-NEA convention conference in Chicago last July, organized by CORE / CTU and PEAC / UTLA.

Maybe you've heard about the takeover of Lakeview Elementary and the People's School there. I'm one of the organizers of that action, which is aimed directly at fighting school closures and, consequently, has to confront many of the other key planks of the corporate agenda for shutting down public education. We've made the Oakland school district uncomfortable enough to post a long statement on its home page (and circulate it to media) trying to justify why it's closing public schools. The Lakeview sit-in asked me to write a reply to it in the name of the whole group, and we're trying to get it circulated as widely as we can. We'd really appreciate it if you could put some or all of this up on ednotes online (and any other ways you could find time to do).

By the way, we did a public pot-luck dinner and movie last night, and the movie was "Inconvenient Truth About Waiting for Superman". Thanks for doing that -- it's really a valuable tool.

Reply to OUSD from the Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School

June 30, 2012

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:

· Dismantled the Adult Education program that two years ago served 25,000 students, a program that single mothers, high school dropouts, and immigrants especially relied on to try to escape from the clutches of poverty.

· Removed class size limits and increased class size, despite the fact that small class size is strongly linked to student achievement.

· Made harsh cuts to the early childhood program that working families desperately need and is closely linked to children’s future academic and lifetime success.

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 saveoaklandschools.org

For more information contact:

Jack Gerson jackrgerson@gmail.com

Joel Velasquez joelvelasquez71@yahoo.com


Save Our Oakland Schools Reply to Oakland Unified School District from the Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School

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.

"The days of public schools that are free and of any quality are long gone," said Marita Daly, president of Kentfield Invests In Kids (KIK), which provided about $1.35 million to the Kentfield schools this year. "Annual contributions from parents are necessary to achieve the quality of education we want in our schools."-- Contra Costa Times

Lakeview Elementary sit-in: Oakland schools police order crowd to disperse

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