Archive | January, 2013

New York City School Bus Drivers’ Strike: An Injury to One Is an Injury to All

24 Jan

As the privatization agenda moves forward and attacks teachers and students it’s sometimes forgotten how school support workers are affected.  At least in Oakland, custodial workers have gone years without a raise and numerous positions have been outsourced.  A key and often overlooked outsourced position is afterschool workers.  Increasingly they have been expected to shoulder more teaching–without any of the benefits and protections of teachers–as teachers have been cut and overburdened.  All this points to a basic tenet of labor: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

In that vein, this article looks at the current New York City school bus drivers’ strike.  They have walked out to prevent their union from being busted as Mayor Bloomberg continues his offensive against school workers.  The strike is placed in this context of the larger attack on public education and its workers while pointing out the negative effects on students, particularly on special needs students and students who have lost their neighborhood schools to closures.  Clearly, there are overlaps for Oakland.

The original article can be found at:

School Bus Strike


New York City’s Bus Strike At Critical Juncture

Mon, 01/21/2013 – 14:10

By Peter Rugh

The wheels on New York City’s school buses aren’t going round in what’s becoming a familiar song these days in America: education workers resisting attempts to balance budgets on their backs at the expense of students learning.

The current school bus strike in the Big Apple is no exception.

Last week’s walkout follows a successful strike by the Chicago Teachers Union last year against layoffs and the knotting of pay to standardized test results. Before that, teachers were a leading force in the 2011 occupation of Wisconsin’s capitol building in opposition to legislation that stripped state employees of collective bargaining rights. The measure passed but large sections of it were later ruled unconstitutional. And those who slept on the marble floors of Madison laid the groundwork for what would become Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement, challenging austerity amidst the worst economic crisis since the depression.

It’s in this atmosphere of heightened class conflict that the union representing New York City drivers, attendants and mechanics – who are responsible for transporting over 150,000 students in the country’s largest school district – called a strike. New York’s billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Schools Chancellor Denise Walcott are looking to nix employee protections that enable workers to keep their jobs when bus routes pass from one contractor to another.

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Seattle teachers resist standardized testing

17 Jan

As some of you might have heard, Seattle teachers at 2 high schools have refused to administer a junk science standardized test mandated by the district.  This is a brave action and a powerful action.  From all appearances this seems like a rank and file organized protest with deep roots at the school site level and strong student support.  These are the types of organization and action we should strive for here in Oakland as well.

Here we repost a great article analyzing this struggle from a teacher comrade in Seattle.  The original can be found at the blog of the Black Orchid Collective, a revolutionary organization based in Seattle:

We hope this article sparks ideas for organizing we can do here as well.  As always if you have ideas please share.

Seattle teachers hold press conference declaring their refusal to implement a standardized test.

Seattle teachers hold press conference declaring their refusal to implement a standardized test.

Seattle teachers resist standardized testing

By Mamos206


Teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School have recently chosen to resist administering a standardized test used for student and teacher evaluation.  Ballard High School teachers followed soon after, declaring that they also would resist the test.

This is making big waves locally and nationally. I hope that teachers, students, and parents at other schools in Seattle and across the country extend solidarity to the Garfield and Ballard teachers; you can sign a petition here to suport them.  I also hope this kind of action is replicated at other schools.  The Garfield and Ballard teachers have shown that when we are unified we don’t need to be passive and cynical; we can resist.

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The Education 4 the 99% blog and newsletter has a new name: ClassRoom Struggle!

10 Jan

We are very excited to announce that the Occupy Oakland Education Committee and the Education for the 99% Newsletter and Blog have been renamed.  Our new name is ClassRoom Struggle and we are calling to Transform Education, Abolish Capitalism and Heal (TEACH :).  Following is an explanation of this decision.  Please comment to share your thoughts and reactions to this piece.

Also visit the Classroom Struggle Blog to check out our most recent newsletter, the Mi Pueblo Lesson Plan, and many more new articles.

In struggle to defend and transform our public education system,
ClassRoom Struggle

Why we chose ClassRoom Struggle to be our new name

Our committee grew out of the Occupy movement.  The first political project that brought together many of the founding members was the organization of the student, parent and teacher march for education on November 2, 2011.  We have been supporters of much of the work of occupy, have received financial support from Occupy Oakland and the Oakland Commune as well, and were leaders of the Lakeview occupation in protest of school closings and privatization in our school district.  In the course of the spring and summer, our organizational relation to the Occupy Oakland general assembly became less clear, to the point where our committee began to function as a semi-autonomous committee of education workers, rather than as a branch of Occupy.  As individuals we have a high level of respect and solidarity for the activists of Occupy Oakland, and as a committee we have appreciated our political relationship with Occupy Oakland for the space that has been opened for radical politics and struggle as a result of OO’s actions.  With that said, we have not been formally a part of Occupy Oakland for quite some time, and we want to be clear about where we’re at as a committee. For this reason, we’ve decided to rename our committee, newsletter and blog, and and have chosen a new name that represents our dual commitment to the struggle for radical changes in both our schools and our society at large – ClassRoom Struggle.  We see this struggle as a struggle both internal and external to the classroom itself, and deeply entwined with the struggle of working class people to create a new society.

Central to the work of ClassRoom Struggle is a dual call to not only defend our our public school system but to transform it in the process. While public schools have served a role in developing white supremacist, capitalist and imperialist ideology and social structure (for example through segregated schools, tracked programs, mandated pledge of allegiance, etc.), they have also been key sites of struggle and served as assets for movements of working class students of color and other youth struggles.   This has been true since Reconstruction in the US South when black slaves who had fought to emancipate themselves from slavery organized toward establishing public education with funding from the capitalist state as a form of reparations; it was evident during the student walkouts in the late 60’s, and could be felt over the last two decades in Oakland where teachers and students have repeatedly joined forces to fight Prop 21, state budget cuts and gang injunctions.

In many ways, public schools are the last commons that we have in this country, the last place where people – children, teenagers, teachers, parents, school workers, neighbors – meet across difference and share the only assets that cannot be taken from us – our knowledge and vision.  Yet our K-12 schools, the very last free public service still provided to ALL people inside U.S. borders, are under attack.  Between austerity policies that slash school budgets, union busting that threatens the quality of teaching, corporate backed reforms aimed to turn young people into work ready robots rather than creative thinkers, and the rapid privatization of our schools (of which Oakland is a leader with 30% of students in charter schools), our schools are very literally under attack.  And for this reason we call for their defense.  What we are calling to abolish is not education but rather capitalism.

We see the struggle to abolish capitalist schools as one place where we can begin to chip away at capitalism’s grasp on our society.  Capitalist tendencies run deep into the structure and politics of schools.  Whether we consider the way in which capital benefits from public schools by tracking students within academic programs, or within schools that themselves function as tracked systems; or whether we consider the way that the school system itself was organized around the logic of a factory, complete with bells ringing and time managed just like a factory, it’s clear that the origins of public schools include a deep relation with the need of capital to reproduce a division of labor.  Meanwhile global capitalism’s ongoing austerity strategy even more severely limits the educational opportunities of working class students.  UC/CSU systems are increasingly raising tuition, defunding people of color outreach programs, cutting the number of professors, increasing class sizes and pushing students of color and all working class students out of higher education.  In public secondary schools we see ongoing cuts in funding, increases in class sizes, and attacks on school workers.  Despite progressive and radical attempts to re-structure schools, promote ethnic studies and other forms of radical curriculum, there is no fundamental hope for a liberatory education under capitalism.  This is why we say we must push the education struggle to its limits and fight to make it as much of an anti-capitalist struggle as possible.

Given all this context, we know that the whole of public education as it currently stands, is a very unjust system to say the least. We also know that the roots of this injustice are not ignorance or ineptitude, as the education reform movement commonly frames the issue.  We call to “transform” rather than “reform” education because we don’t understand the public education system to be a “broken” or “failing” system that simply needs to be fixed, but rather we believe it is acting in ways that have been deliberately designed to reinforce a hierarchical race/class structure. Public education is used to support a fragmented, deskilled, and deeply hierarchical workforce, where poor students and students of color who are not supported are funneled into underground economies, chronic underemployment, and low wage work; middle class students are trained to be professionals; and wealthy students are trained to become the ruling class.  The school to prison pipeline, zero tolerance policies, tracked classes, unequal distribution of resources, racist administration and teachers, hostility to students’ communities, Eurocentric history standards, english-only classrooms, the list of oppressive practices could go on and on.  It is not enough to defend our schools, perhaps more importantly, we must also be working towards their transformation into intergenerational centers for healing, exploration, learning, self-actualization and the development of resilient communities not only able to survive current and coming disasters but to build skills, relationships and power to overthrow the current power structures of our society.

Finally we know that part of our work as educators and organizers to facilitate healing within ourselves, our schools and our communities.  Capitalist exploitation and white supremacy create social, emotional, and psychological conditions of permanent trauma for working class and POC.  The ongoing trauma of daily life under capitalism leads to internalized oppression that we take out on one another horizontally.  There is a profound need for healing from this oppression through struggle against the conditions that reproduce it.  While the process of healing is often co-opted through government agencies and nonprofits, this should not mean that the process of healing itself is not radical.  It is a centrally human need we have that our struggles and educational practices should be aimed toward meeting, even if fundamental healing is not possible in any complete way while we’re stuck in webs of capital and racial oppression. As we organize ourselves we should seek ways to overcome alienation and trauma so that we can build new social relations of compassion, care, and solidarity.  The work of the educator is the work of reproducing the worker, but it is also the caring work of reproducing a caring, critical, and autonomous social being.  We strive to push our work toward the humanistic side of the contradictions we face in our organizing and educating.

As ClassRoom Struggle, we are building a network of projects based out of Oakland, CA aimed towards this commitment to transforming our education system, participating a movement for the abolition of capitalism, and developing a culture of healing to sustain our communities through the current struggles and those ahead.  We hope you will join us and be in touch:,,

If you think Paulo Freire is interesting…

8 Jan

What school of pedagogy has left the most significant imprint on Brazil’s largest social movement, the Landless Worker’s Movement (the MST)?  Forgive yourself if you said Paulo Freire.  While he did influence MST’s community schools, try out the pedagogy developed in Soviet Russia from 1918-1931.  In those years, according to the MST, vast and important experiments took place to develop an egalitarian and successful education system.  Don’t miss this fascinating recording of an Against the Grain interview with UC Berkeley School of Education doctoral student, Rebecca Tarlau.

Click here to access the recording from KPFA’s Against the Grain:

Chicago Teacher's Union? Nope. This is a rally of the largest social movement in Latin America, the Landless Workers' Movement.

Chicago Teacher’s Union rally? Nope. This is a rally of the largest social movement in Latin America, the Landless Workers’ Movement.

The Phoenix: A new newsletter from San Jose youth organizing group, 50/50 Crew

6 Jan

We recently received this newsletter, named The Phoenix, from a San Jose group called 50/50 Crew.  They formed out of frustration with non-profit and college campus organizing.  Focusing on political work with youth, they place a strong emphasis on anti-police/prison industrial complex work.  We found it pretty interesting and hope you do to… so let us know what you think!


Click the image above to access the pdf of The Phoenix.

Click the image above to access the pdf of The Phoenix.


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