7 – Fight school closure

By Gerald

More than 300 people participated in a “Shut Down the Town” demonstration in East Oakland against school closures on March 5, 2022. There was a militant spirit among the the march that started at Roots, the site of a school that has been shut down. Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has a history of closing down schools of majority Black and Latino students. The effects of chronic school closures and mergers have disrupted the education of many students and fed into the School to Prison Pipeline. This is widely understood by the teachers, students, parents, and the Oakland community at large.

The Good

2000 people logged into the meeting where the School Board announced they intended to shut down 15 schools. In response, all hell broke out. There have been numerous Town Hall meetings, demonstrations, rallies, and a Hunger Strike. Community Day, Parker, and Grass Valley elementary schools went on one day strikes with the cooperation of parents. The kids even walked out. All this in spite of the OUSD administration, Democratic Party politicians, and the California Teachers Association (CTA) constantly preaching that shutting down schools is a “management prerogative”. “Trust the experts”, they say. “They know what they’re doing”. Indeed, and we know what they’re doing. They are attacking us.

The Bad (Shane this part’s for you)

California is a “deep-blue” state, the Democratic Party has a super-majority in the state legislature and a Democrat occupies the Governor’s mansion. California is flush with a state budget surplus upwards of 30 billion dollars. Considering these facts, as workers we must draw the conclusion that the Democrats are for the public school closures the Oakland School Board recently voted for. This will come as no surprise to teacher union activists, who’ve for years seen hallways and classrooms and even whole campuses sacrificed to the private sector and their Charter School Industry or their Real Estate Developers. All completed through cushy legislation (Prop. 39 & AB 1840) passed by our “friends” in Sacramento, and/or the Democrats on the School Board. It’s Democratic Party machine politics!

And with this Democratic Party machine we see a patronage system within the structures of labor including: the Trade Union Bureaucracy, the elected School Board, and Employer’s Admin. Why has the leadership of Oakland Education Association union been hesitant to speak against school closures at both the rally/press conference organized by ILWU Local 10 (Longshore workers are facing similar attacks from private sector) and the East Oakland post-march rally? Then there is the bosses side. OUSD officials Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Shanthi Gonzalez, Gary Yee, and Clifford Thompson are all Democrats. What conclusions should we draw as workers? The result is class collaboration. The Democrats are the dirty bathwater of a labor movement still in its infancy. US workers need to usher in a new era of labor movement struggle For this to happen the bathwater has to be drained. 

To top it all off OUSD did zero community engagement before the decision was made. As Activists interested in reversing these closures we have to consider the roadblocks this deep-blue structure puts up to prevent a meaningful movement from emerging. Case in point, at the East Oakland march against school closures one didn’t see a large Democratic Socialists of America contingent with the big red banners, which was strange considering there was a rather large DSA contingent at a march at Oscar Grant Plaza a month earlier in February.

The Ugly

OUSD board president Gary Yee was seen with a developer at Community Day. Teachers took photos and placed them on Instagram. Our enemies are relentless. The OUSD Superintendent is a graduate of “Chiefs for Change” a Bush regime creation with Democrats (Bi-partisan effort w/ Ted Kennedy). 

Even though our pressure significantly decreased the number of schools that will be closing from the original threat of 15 to 3, schools are still on the chopping block. Three schools is still too many! Recall! No tested leadership!