Archive | December, 2012

Commentary on “The mass killings in Newtown”

29 Dec

This is a blog post from a former Oakland teacher reflecting on the Newtown massacre and advocating for a different kind of gun control than that commonly echoed in the mainstream media.

The original post came from  The blog is called Facts For Working People.

Commentary on “The mass killings in Newtown”

by Jack Gerson

Some of you may have already read the piercing comment that Gary (one of this blog’s [that is, Facts for Working People, not this blog, ClassRoom Struggle] regular readers) wrote in response to Richard Mellor’s “The mass killings in Newtown, Conn. have deep social roots”.  Gary’s comment really resonated with me. Here’s Gary’s comment in full, followed by a bit more from me:

I would like to add to some of your fine posts here. I grew up 5 minutes down the road from Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT. My home town, where my parents still live is Monroe, CT. The next town over.

A couple of brief points I want to get off my chest. I acknowledge this as a horrible, horrible tragedy. Now, down the road about 20 minutes from Newtown is a former industrialized city named Bridgeport CT where youth are threatened by gun violence on a near daily basis. And at least 17 murders have occurred this year alone. This pattern repeats itself year after year after year.

Unfortunately, the national media and political figures do not speak much about the violence that occurs in Bridgeport and I hate to say such a thing but I live here and I know that people in the surrounding suburbs accept the violence there as “normal”…nothing can be done.

The multinational corporations in the area have long since abandoned the average worker in Bridgeport. General Electric being just one of an incredibly long list of such companies to leave the residents there in very desperate poverty.

The ABC’s of Keeping Teachers (no apologies to the LA Times)

27 Dec

School reconstitution.  Last minute classroom reassignments.  Overbooked class-load assignments.  Constant turnover of the best teachers at your school.  Sounds familiar to you?  If so, this post from a teacher at Fremont High captures a lot of what you’re probably feeling.  And, note, that’s Fremont High in Los Angeles because unfortunately these problems are all too common.  Let us know below if this story resonates with you.

The original post can be found at:


The ABC’s of Keeping Teachers (no apologies to the LA Times)

December 23, 2012
After a wonderful hike in Haines Canyon today, I arrived home, checked my email and found a letter to the editor written by Mat Taylor in response to yet another teacher- loving tome  from the LA Times titled The ABC’s of Firing Teachers.  (sarcasm intended). They never learn.  They just never do.  It’s not about firing the few poor ones, it’s keeping the competent ones.  You’d think with us being overpaid and all with “Cadillac benefits” and “three months off a year” we’d have people beating down the doors to teach. Fact is, the district is always short of math and science teachers and forces some unlucky RIF’d teachers to sub their old positions.

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Election 2012: The True Impact on Oakland Schools

24 Dec

Here is a new article by two Oakland educators that explores the recent local and national elections as it relates to public education.  It touches on everything from Proposition 30, to Race to the Top, to GO Public Schools (an Oakland non-profit) which had an enormous impact on the recent Oakland School Board elections.  We hope it sparks conversation and look forward to your comments.


Girl in Voting Booth

Election 2012: The True Impact on Oakland Schools

By Margarita Monteverde and Felicia Vivanco



Over the weeks and months leading up to the November 6 elections, electoral politics dominated the conversation in the news, social media and discussion; a unique moment in a culture normally preoccupied with shopping and celebrity gossip. These conversations, focused mainly on the two party debate over the presidential race, have now all but ceased. With Obama’s re-election victory and the passing of California’s Prop 30 (which puts funds into public education through a sales tax increase and tax on the wealthy) many residents in Oakland and across California breathed a celebratory sigh of relief. However, the post-election rejoicing may be premature when we begin to take seriously the real implications that these policies and politicians have on our lives. While the Obama hypeovershadowed local elections, a traditionally less popular topic during election times, the Oakland school board race drew more attention than usual this year. This was due to the unusually large number of contested seats across districts and the historic amount of money poured into these races which often go ignored by the public. If we believe in fighting for quality public education for all, then it is important that we take a deeper look at the landscape that has led to our current situation and what has now been laid down by the 2012 election results as it affects public education locally and nationally.

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22 Dec


As you sit back with friends and family for the holidays, try out this recipe for size. It’s guaranteed to be memorable. Happy holidays!

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

A reader from Washington State sends this comment:

Here is a satirical “Recipe for How To Change The Nation’s Schools.” I am a 33 year classroom teaching veteran currently working on the campaign to stop the charter school initiative in WA state. It doesn’t look good as Bill Gates and friends spend $9 million on ads (we have no ads).

RECIPE for Taking over a Nation’s Public Schools

• A Few Super Wealthy Families (that have never attended public schools)
• Powerful Religious Groups convinced that what is wrong with the nation is caused by public education.
• Lobbyists for Private Corporations Waiting To Cash In on Public Money.
• A Political System that allows legislation to be “bought” where campaign money is uncontrolled.
• The illusion that the Public School System is Broken (despite the fact that it has steadily gotten better over time according to the NAEP)

View original 218 more words

Resistance to Education Attacks in Mexico: Lessons for Oakland

17 Dec

Here we take a look at a fraction of the Mexican teachers’ union called the CNTE.  La CNTE works within the larger union (the SNTE)–and outside the SNTE in larger social movements–in a variety of ways.  This snapshot of their work focuses particularly on Escuelas Integrales (holistic schools).  These are schools run by parents and teachers with locally developed and relevant curriculum that stands against the push towards curricula oriented towards standardized tests.  They were established through protests and won government funding through more protests.  This model offers interesting alternatives to developing locally rooted schools that are not charter schools and not part of the attacks on working class students and teachers.  Clearly, we should investigate them more.  In the meantime, however, let us know your reaction to them in the comment section below.  Also we’ve included discussion questions below if you would like to study this with friends and allies.

Author’s Note: The information within this article about education struggles in Mexico comes mainly from a conversation with one Mexican teacher who works with a part of the Mexican teachers union called the CNTE. This article represents that perspective with limited outside information and does not represent all education struggles happening in Mexico nor all of the different currents/projects within the CNTE. We hope to illuminate more of this in future issues and please contact us with any other perspectives that you have.

Mexico Teachers Banner

This CNTE banner says, “The teacher in struggle is also teaching.”

Resistance to Education Attacks in Mexico: Lessons for Oakland

By Margarita Monteverde


At the beginning of August, a group of Oakland educators met with a teacher from Michoacan, Mexico to discuss her organizing and teaching in Michoacan and share about the current situation of the US public education system. The conversation with Graciela was refreshing and humbling. Although the differences between Mexico’s struggles and ours were evident, we are both fighting similar privately funded neoliberal “education reforms.”As we, in the US, continue to fight against privatization and for quality fully-funded public education, Michoacan’s models are useful to push our imagination of what is possible here, what our unions or other teacher organizations could look like, what kinds of collaboration between parents, teachers and students could exist and ways to take back our schools that don’t rely on charters, private funding or non-profit organizations.

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How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

11 Dec

This article was submitted to us by a teacher friend.  She writes, “The article illustrates in a very simple way what needs to be done to have and be a union that is truly on the side of the working class. Two friends of mine that are teachers, and in the past had made a conscious decision to not be organizers, were pretty inspired by this article. I think the simpleness of the article is a big plus for people that don’t have politics in their heads 24/7.”

Here in Oakland, the lessons of the Chicago teachers are especially useful for us as OEA gears up for contract negotiations.  So if you’re interested in what Norine Gutekanst has to say here you might want to check out our Oct. 5 post with a video of Norine going in depth into the lessons of the strike.

Editors Note: This article was taken from who reposted it from Labor Notes (we were unable to find the original link, apologies).  Thanks to both parties, and our friend, for spreading the words and work of CTU.

CTU teachers on strike. Note their signs raising working class wide demands calling for unity between teachers, parents, and students.

CTU teachers on strike. Note their signs raising working class wide demands calling for unity between teachers, parents, and students which the teacher organizers made real by fighting against school closures long before the 2012 strike.

How Chicago Teachers Got Organized to Strike

By Norine Gutekanst, CTU Organizing Director

The seven-day Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike in September didn’t just beat back a mayor bent on imposing some very bad “education reforms.” The union also developed a deep new layer of member leaders and won broad public support. One poll showed 66 percent of parents sided with us.

Our win was possible because of several years of patient organizing, focused on getting members to step up.

The work began with the election of a new leadership team from a reform caucus in June 2010. Many in the caucus had waged battles going back to 2001 against the school closings that were targeting Black and Latino neighborhoods.

We knew we had to build up the union to be ready to strike, if necessary, to defend our contract and our students. But the vast majority of our members had not experienced any of the nine strikes from 1967 through 1987. Leaders were committed to building a member-driven union to battle alongside parents and students and make our contract campaign one front in a bigger fight to save public education.

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Speaking Truth to Power: Challenging Corporate Money in Elections

9 Dec

The recent Oakland school board elections, where close to 200,000 private sector dollars were dumped into the Great Oakland Public School’s (GOPS) campaign coffers for three candidates, are a perfect example of what this courageous teacher is addressing to the American Legislative Exchange Council.  (ALEC is an extremely right-wing organization composed of legislators, businesses and foundations which produces model legislation for state legislatures. For more info on ALEC click here). That is, private sector interests entirely disconnected from the public school realm and shaping the discourse and decision making. The nerve of these legislators to allege that they merely suggest the policies currently plaguing public education and it’s the school boards that ultimately “decide.” That is laughable. School closures, high stakes testing, teacher evaluation based on testing, vouchers, charters, etc. etc. are all in the interests of the ruling class and benefit their strategy to open up public education to the “free” markets.

Our education committee, Transform Education, Abolish Capitalism, Heal (TEACH) completely agrees with Sabrina Joy Stevens, the teacher seen in the linked video. Thus, we will continue to fight school closures and all the worst top down “reforms” coming the Tony Smiths of the public education hierarchy. If you share a similar commitment to this fight please get in touch with us. Thank you.

LA High School Fights Against LAUSD’s Scorched-Earth Restructuring

5 Dec

A black, brown, and working class school slated for restructuring.  Years of neglect and mismanagement by the central district.  A top-down, careerist superintendent.  Veteran and outspoken teachers at risk for dismissal.  And maybe most importantly, parents, teachers, and students fighting back.

This could be describing Oakland but in this case it’s Los Angeles.  Right now Crenshaw High School is under threat just as Oakland schools have been.  Just as schools in working class, black and brown neighborhoods across the country have been.  But at the same time as the corporate-driven austerity (e.g. budget cuts and taking schools out of democratic control) attacks increase, there are signs of increasing fightbacks, such as in Chicago, anti-school closure struggles across the country, and of course here in Oakland.  While it’s too soon to say if a movement to defend and transform public education is maturing, it’s never too soon to support others in struggle against the austerity program.  So please read this letter from organizers at Crenshaw High, pass it on, and get in touch with the organizers at if you want to involve yourself deeper.  An injury to one is an injury to all!

The letter follows the introductory paragraphs.

A protest at Crenshaw High, Los Angeles.

A protest at Crenshaw High, Los Angeles.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I hope you’re very well. I’m writing hoping that you can urgently pass this copy-and-pasted article on to your networks. There is a struggle occurring in Los Angeles that will have local and national implications — between Superintendent Deasy and stakeholders at Crenshaw High School. Deasy is one of the most nationally-known superintendents and represents a scorched-earth approach to reform, sometimes referred to as being part of the “Ed Reformers” grouping, along with Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, and others. Some say Deasy has national aspirations. Crenshaw High School is nationally-known for its arts and athletics, and has come to be known more recently for a nationally-recognized Extended Learning Cultural model, based on meeting all students’ needs, true administration-union collaboration, cultural relevance, and community investment and connection.

Superintendent Deasy now wants to reconstitute Crenshaw High School. An important struggle is emerging.

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Lessons from the Lakeview Sit-In

4 Dec

Here we are almost 6 months on from the Lakeview Sit-In.  The school has now been turned into offices and at least one-fifth of the former students of the 5 closed elementary schools have left the district.  Many of the ones that have stayed are now being taught in portables.  Clearly we did not achieve our major goals, even though now the Administration will think twice about closing more schools.  This article tries to capture some of the positives and negatives of the school closure struggle in order to glean lessons for us today and going forward.  They are just the reflections of one person.  So please contribute your thoughts too. It is imperative that we all collectively reflect, struggle, and keep our schools open for students.

Lakeview Banner w Kid

Lessons from the Lakeview Sit-In

By N. Finch


Editor’s Note: This was written by a member of the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland which co-organized the Sit-In with parents and teachers of the 5 schools.

We sat-in at Lakeview Elementary June 15th but the seeds for our People’s School had been planted much earlier. Beginning in September, 2011, parents, teachers, and students from the 5 schools slated for closure fought to keep their schools open. Clearly the main surge of struggle was leading up to the October 26th vote, but beyond then parents and teachers continued organizing—refusing to accept the destruction of neighborhood schools as somehow advancing the vision of “Community Schools, Thriving Students.” They attempted all the official ways of lodging complaints: attending meeting after meeting at the Board, holding press conferences and rallies. As the District continued stonewalling them, they moved steadily more confrontational, refusing to accept the Administration’s flawed logic. They sued OUSD and even tried recalling the Board members who voted to close the schools. All of these outlets are intended to persuade the Administration to change course when their policies are proven wrong (See Reply to OUSD by Jack Gerson, in this newsletter). But in this case, we were faced with an intransigent Administration fully committed to privatizing our public schools and a yes-men Board. It was in this context, with all other avenues exhausted, that we walked into Lakeview June 15th to keep our 5 schools open.

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Lakeview Teaches

4 Dec

Sometimes deep and poignant struggle is hard to capture in words.  But when someone is able to it helps keep the transformative moment alive in our hearts and pushes us on to the next upsurge.  Thankfully this reflection by a key participant of the Lakeview Sit-In truly revives what we felt during the 18 whirlwind days at the People’s School.  We hope it also carries you on to the next Lakeview.

Lakeview March 2Lakeview Class

Lakeview Teaches

By Margarita Monteverde

In the long list of defeats that keep us humble and push us forward

knowing only that growth and knowledge come quickly and are constant

yet we remain endlessly chasing wisdom

Defeat is constantly an option

and all we can do is run the risk

We never know, but we always try

As revolutionaries and as humans-

what drives our disempowered, exhausted selves

-hearing a ten year old say that they no longer want to be a cop

-when a comrade asks me to hold him because he is scared to feel his own power

-when the police scare us with trespassing notices and THEN we open the doors of a school they thought was theirs

-the anger of standing next to a killer who continues to hold more rights to a public educational space than I ever will as an educator

-the intricate maneuver of balancing security with inclusiveness (the shades of gray between being called “fascists” and keeping away “pedophiles”)

-coming “home” to 15 children: hands and faces covered in paint, making signs fighting for schools, education, our future

-that a 3 year old learned who schools really should belong to-looking at police planted where she had slept for 3 weeks stating “Who’s Schools? Our schools”

-words from a parent “Ill do my best to be out there with my son but if not keep in mind that we r there in spirit…we love you”

-A sign held by 3 little boys that says “Tony Smith…let the 99% decide”

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