When the Oakland Unified School District announced that they would be closing 24 out of Oakland’s 87 schools at the same time as the teachers began preparing for a strike in February, they essentially declared war on the people of Oakland. And the parents, teachers, and wider community are preparing a massive fightback in response.
On Saturday January 11, several thousand people marched on City Hall, in a sea of red banners demanding the schools our kids deserve. Rank-and-file teachers organized a second wildcat sick-out strike on Friday, January 18, closing most of Oakland’s high schools. Only five teachers of the 122 staff at Skyline High showed up to work. Inspired by closing down the school board office that day, rank and file teachers from 14 schools linked up with the community of Roots Elementary, the first school picked for closure, and organized a shut down of the School District Board meeting on Wednesday January 23.
When School Board leaders left voicemails for parents of the East Oakland elementary school Roots Academy informing them, right before the holidays, that their school was being closed, they must’ve figured the sucker punch was going to demoralize Roots families. Instead, they are mad as hell, and mobilized to join hundreds of community members to shut down business as usual at the January 23rd Board meeting.
At the same time, teachers across the city are in strike preparation mode, organizing themselves into school site committees and committees to encourage parents to join them. At a number of schools, students are organizing to discuss walkouts next week to show their solidarity with the teachers.
One teacher, on a recent job action, wore their Starbucks barista apron, explaining that their job as a teacher is so poorly paid that they need another job, adding that they often grade papers on the weekend while on break at Starbucks.
The perpetrators of this misery and destruction are the seven members of the School Board of the Oakland Unified School District. They all get heavy financial backing from pro-privatization non-profits for their election campaigns, yet none of them openly campaign for closing schools or impoverishing our teachers. Their strategy is to destabilize the teaching and parent communities by driving them out of public education, and widening the doors to privately-run charter schools.
In the last week of January, teachers are likely to vote in favor, by a wide margin, for a February strike. The buildup to a full-on confrontation between the District and the people of Oakland is in full swing.
Across Oakland, signs in support of teachers are going up in windows. Community members and teachers are beginning to forge unity. Oakland may not be as big as Los Angeles, but our teachers’ strike will certainly pack the same heat and momentum!
- For a $15k immediate hike for young teachers;
- No school closures and a charter school moratorium;
- A California billionaire tax now.