What's interesting about recent strikes in WV, LA, Oakland, Denver is the push back against Ed Deform: charters, merit pay, takeovers.
So yes, this is a takeover — this time, the county does the dirty work. But the OUSD board has been acting in this way for years — acting as the local executors of the corporate assault on public education. This is not a revelation. The real question is: Why did CTA support AB1840? .... Jack Gerson
Diane has been on the case: Oakland: Day One of the Strike for Higher Pay, Student Services, and an End to Privatization - she has the press release from the union.
Updated- and this just in from Diane:
See an interview with Jack Gerson: Interview of retired Oakland teacher, activist and socialist, Jack Gerson. He talks about the how the Oakland school district (and public education) has been systematically strangled and dismantled and created the conditions for the Oakland strike. We talk about where the strike is going and where we think it may need to go to be successful
From one of my old colleagues at PS 16K: Pete F.
I thought you should see this, about Oakland. In short, the plan is 1) Hide the $30+ million they have in surplus by an accounting sleight of hand, 2) Declare a deficit of that same amount, and 3) Invite a de facto state takeover, as outlined below, so they can privatize a significant portion of the city's schools
The 7 school board members act like they don't see or understand this. Maybe they're naive, stupid, or just good actors. At least 6 of them were elected with billionaires' money .... Pete F.
Tonight the school board will be voting on a 2019-20 spending plan that because of Assembly Bill 1840 will allow the school board to sell property and will again put OUSD under a trustee.Date: February 19, 2019 at 4:41:10 PM PST
Subject: Tonight’s school vote is a state takeover
AB 1840 states, “This bill would authorize the Inglewood Unified School District, the Oakland Unified School District, the South Monterey County Joint Union High School District, and the Vallejo City Unified School District, if those school districts have an outstanding emergency apportionment loan as of July 1, 2018, until the emergency apportionment loan is repaid, to sell or lease surplus real property, together with any personal property located on the real property, owned by the school district and use the proceeds from the sale or lease to service, reduce, or retire the debt on the emergency apportionment loan, or for capital improvements of the school district’s facilities.”
And, “This bill would require the Oakland Unified School District, for the 2018–19 fiscal year, in collaboration with and with the concurrence of the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools and the County Office Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, to take certain actions by March 1, 2019, regarding its financial plans and school district construction plans, as specified. The bill would provide that, beginning with the 2019–20 fiscal year and ending with the 2021–22 fiscal year, the Budget Act for those fiscal years shall include certain appropriations, as specified. The bill would make the disbursement of moneys from those appropriations contingent upon the completion of activities specified in the prior year Budget Act to improve the school district’s fiscal solvency.”
Tonight’s vote on a 2019-20 spending reduction plan are the “certain actions by March 1, 2019” referred to in the Bill.
AB 1840 further states, “The trustee appointed pursuant to this section shall monitor and review the operation of the school district. During the period of his or her service, the trustee may stay or rescind an action of the governing board of the school district that, in the judgment of the trustee, may affect the financial condition of the school district.”
And, “(a) The Legislature finds and declares that when a school district becomes insolvent and requires an emergency apportionment from the state in the amount designated in this article, it is necessary that the county superintendent of schools, under the supervision of the Superintendent, assume control of the school district in order to ensure the school district’s return to fiscal solvency.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that an administrator, appointed pursuant to Section 41326, do all of the following:
(1) Implement substantial changes in the school district’s fiscal policies and practices, including, if necessary, the filing of a petition under Chapter 9 of the federal Bankruptcy Code for the adjustment of indebtedness.
(2) Revise the school district’s educational program to reflect realistic income projections, in response to the dramatic effect of the changes in fiscal policies and practices upon educational program quality and the potential for the success of all pupils.
(3) Encourage all members of the school community to accept a fair share of the burden of the school district’s fiscal recovery.
(4) Consult, for the purposes described in this subdivision, with the school district governing board, the exclusive representatives of the employees of the school district, parents, and the community.
(5) Consult with and seek recommendations from the county superintendent of schools and the Superintendent for the purposes described in this subdivision.
(c) For purposes of this article, the county superintendent of schools, the Superintendent, and the president of the state board or his or her designee may also appoint a trustee with the powers and responsibilities of an administrator, as set forth in this article.”
Tonight’s vote will trigger AB 1840 which will allow the school board to close schools and sell public property and which will put OUSD back into state receivership under an appointed trustee. Tonight’s vote explains everything that’s happened over the last 3 years. Antwan Wilson, an engineered budget crisis, the Blueprint process, the forming of a 7-11 committee, BP 6006, the opportunity ticket, Citywide school closure plan, the millions of dollars spent on school board elections, this year’s $60M increase in expenditures, the looming teachers strike, and more. It’s all been an effort close our public schools in order to move the property to charter schools and developers. And the entire school board is complicit.
Tonight’s meeting starts at 6:30pm and this is the only item on the agenda. La Escuelita 1050 2nd Ave.--
Mike HutchinsonJack G responds:
OPEN Oakland Public Education Network
First, this has been in the works for a long time. On November 6 of last year, there was a presentation on this to the school board by the following allies:The Alameda County Superintendent of Public Instruction;the outgoing state trustee (when local control was “returned” to OUSD nine years ago, the OUSD state administrator became the OUSD state trustee with power to stay or rescind any district act he deemed to be financially risky);FCMAT (the public-private entity that audited OUSD for the state);The outgoing OUSD state trustee (who becomes the incoming OUSD county trustee);A representative from the state education apparatusThey laid out everything that Mike Hutchinson describes in the email forwarded by Pete. And the OUSD board appropriately genuflected, cooed, and competed in who could lavish the most praise upon the new jailers.What Mike doesn’t say, but should not be forgotten, is that CTA, OEA’s statewide “parent”, actively supported the passage of AB1840.So yes, this is a takeover — this time, the county does the dirty work. But the OUSD board has been acting in this way for years — acting as the local executors of the corporate assault on public education. This is not a revelation. The real question is: Why did CTA support AB1840? Well, AB1840 promises additional funding to Oakland (and / or the other three specified school districts) if (a) they’re in deficit, and (b) they eliminate that deficit by making the cuts prescribed by FCMAT and the county. Most folks — including, I think, CTA — believed, last June, that OUSD was really running a deficit last year and would run one again this year. In fact, they had a $29 million surplus at the end of last year, and have to cook the books (mainly by hiding unallocated revenue in the “books and supplies” category, which they’ve bloated ridiculously) to make it appear that they have a deficit this year (and thus qualify for AB1840 funds).
The project of free market education reform is so widespread in America that many cities and states insist on claiming the title of “ground zero” of education privatization. Whether or not Oakland can claim that unfortunate title, it’s clear that the privatizers have made huge headway in the city: Oakland is now the city in California with the highest percentage of students in privately run charters, and the city’s school district is aiming to deepen its downsizing project by closing twenty-four of the city’s eighty-seven public schools.
Which makes the teachers’ strike that kicked off today in Oakland all the more crucial.
Stopping and reversing the privatization offensive will take mass collective action. It will also require understanding the billionaires and their political proxies who are behind these attacks on public education. Here’s a crash course on the powerful enemies of Oakland’s public schools.
The Rogers FamilyRecently deceased, Gary Rogers was the CEO and owner of the multibillion-dollar ice cream company Dreyer’s. His Rogers Family foundation was and remains the largest financial contributor to GO Public Schools, a front group through which the ultrawealthy have funded the takeover and privatization of Oakland public education.
To ensure the election of pro-charter candidates to the school board in 2012, 2014, and 2016, Rogers teamed up with fellow billionaires including former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Walton Family, which founded Walmart, to spend millions dollars in campaign contributions. By all accounts, their investment has paid off. If the Rogers Foundation and GO get their way, well over 50 percent of Oakland schools will soon be charters.
The rich may be greedy, but they are not stupid. Rather than openly announce their hopes to bust unions and make profits in the $600 billion industry that is public education, Rogers and his friends have funneled their money into GO, which claims to be an organization to improve schools for Oakland students and parents. Its website affirms that “quality education is the path to opportunity for our kids and can interrupt historical inequity and oppression. Student needs drive our work.”
The irony of such claims is that, in practice, the spread of charter schools has greatly exacerbated educational inequities.
In Oakland, and across the nation, charters systematically cherry pick certain students, while leaving high-needs children — with disabilities, traumatic family backgrounds, or a lack of proficiency in English — to regular public schools. As such, it’s not surprising that privatization has greatly increased racial resegregation in Oakland: 19.2 percent of charter students are African American, compared to 29.5 percent in district schools.
At the same time, charters drain over $57 million in funds from Oakland schools yearly. This is why Oakland Education Association president Keith Brown has said that “the privatization of education is a blatant attack on our black and brown students.”
Eli BroadEver since the state takeover of Oakland public schools in 2003, the district has been led by a revolving door of apparatchiks trained by Eli Broad, the fourth-richest person in the United States, worth over $7.4 billion.
Though Broad has no professional experience in education, this hasn’t stopped him from using his immense personal fortune to impose his vision upon Oakland schools. After making a killing in the home building and insurance industries, he founded the Broad Academy in 2002 to train a new generation of privatizing school leaders.
By 2012, the center was boasting that it had “filled more superintendent positions than any other national training program.” In Oakland, Broad graduates include superintendents Randolph Ward (2003–2006), Kimberly Statham (2006–2007), Vincent Matthews (2007–2009), and Antwan Wilson (2014–2017).
The Broad Foundation has also directly influenced decision-making in Oakland by granting $6 million for “staff development” and paying for the salaries of no less than ten top administrators. Under the tutelage of Broad trainees, the number of students in Oakland charters has skyrocketed upwards to 30 percent.
Part of the reason why Eli Broad has, until recently, largely avoided public vilification is that he’s a liberal — as well as a major funder of the Democratic Party establishment, including leading lights such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, and Chuck Schumer. “The unions no longer control the education agenda of the Democratic Party,” Broad bragged to the Wall Street Journal. The unspoken subtext: billionaires like him do.
His trainees have also smartly draped themselves in the veneer of corporate antiracism. Former Oakland superintendent, and Broad Academy graduate, Antwan Wilson thus framed his corporate reforms — which, among other things, wrecked the district’s budget — as a means to achieve social justice.
Behind this rhetoric, however, lies a neoliberal ideology that blames public services and individuals for social ills like economic inequality.
As Wilson explained to the New York Times, he had a “visceral reaction” when he was told that fixing poverty was the solution to fixing education: “it’s actually educating [poor students] that gives them a chance to fix some poverty.”
Blaming underfunded public schools for deeply rooted social problems makes little sense, but it’s been a surefire ticket to the top for careerists like Wilson.
Bill GatesWith a net worth of $95.4 billion, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world, second only to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos. Gates has also been a longstanding corporate education philanthropist. In 2017 alone he pledged to donate $1.7 billion to education over the coming five years.
In Oakland, Gates in 2015 spent over a million dollars to support GO Public Schools. And now he has stepped up his influence over Oakland by granting $10 million to the City Fund in July 2018. The goal of this grant, explained a foundation spokesperson, is to “support both high-quality charter schools in Oakland and school leaders in [the district].”
The City Fund is not just another foundation. It has positioned itself as the well-funded spearhead of a nationwide push to impose a “portfolio model” upon all major urban districts. In this system, schools compete with each other for survival — and those that don’t do well on metrics such as standardized testing get closed.
In a leaked presentation designed to attract corporate funding, the City Fund pointed to the entirely privatized New Orleans school district as a positive example to be emulated and it explained that “our goal is to make the model normal. After enough adoption we believe the model will transition from being a radical idea to a standard policy intervention.”
According to this presentation, only such a radical transformation in “every major city in America” would be capable of improving educational opportunities for children because all other attempts to improve schools have failed.
Yet as Matt Barnum notes in Chalkbeat, the data shows that two policies have been shown to be effective: racial school integration and increased school funding. Neither of these policies, however, correspond to the interests of the billionaire class.
This Gates-funded portfolio plan is already moving full steam ahead in Oakland. Late last year, new superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell announced her plan to close twenty-four public schools in the next five years. Protests have already erupted to stop the closure of Roots International Academy in East Oakland. Parent organizer Ady Ríos laid out the stakes to Majority:
They’re not targeting the rich with closures. They’re targeting us: the poor, the children that need the most. … We are behind the teachers one million percent. I won’t be sending my kid to school during the strike. We are holding to the light of hope that the strike will win, and the win will help Roots too.
Defending DemocracyAs Bernie Sanders is so fond of pointing out, there is something fundamentally wrong with a system where a tiny handful of billionaires can use their immense fortunes to hijack the political process. The concerted offensive by Gates, Rogers, Broad, and their political cronies to impose their vision of privatization on public schools is anti-democratic in every sense of the word.
Fortunately, for the first time in decades, large numbers of working people are taking strike action to put an end to the unilateral dictates of corporate America. At its heart, the Oakland strike, and the national teachers’ revolt, is a struggle for democracy — for a society in which the working-class majority, not the superrich, determines governmental policy. As Oakland union leader Keith Brown said just before today’s strike, “only the power of the people can defeat the power of the billionaires.”