Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education
A new update on the growing current struggle to save and rebuild Adult Education in OUSD. At the end are the demands of the students and teachers of Adult Ed and K-12 who are fighting as well as a summary of the reasons to keep Adult Ed fully funded and in OUSD. Also, be sure to come out to the Board meeting on May 22nd. It’s an all out mobilization for the deciding vote! Click either the English or Spanish flyers below to download them.
In March, the OUSD school board voted to support the proposal by Superintendent Smith (now resigned) for the flexibility to cut all adult education (AE) classes across the district. Since then, there has been outrage from the students and teachers of these programs directed squarely at the school board members and Tony Smith.
Tony Smith, throughout his years in the district, has championed the idea of “full service community schools” yet with this cut (solely his proposal) the district he presides over is eliminating funding to support families in the district. In order to create “Full service community schools,” the district must prioritize funds to provide real services for the families of students. These classes are one of the only concrete ways that OUSD schools reach out to and serve the families of their students.
These students remember all too well that 90% of the adult education classes were cut less than 3 years ago. As one adult ed. student said, “students in East Oakland remember the school on 73rd Ave. that used to have English as a Second Language (ESL) and other classes every morning, afternoon and night. It’s ridiculous that 13 million dollars were cut from our program and no one knows where that money went.” Now there are only six Family Literacy classes (consisting of ESL and curriculum designed for parents to better assist their students) left in the entire district.
These cuts become more despicable when considering that current national proposals for immigration reform require a basic level of English — highlighting the need for more of these classes. Adding to the irony, how can it be that the federal government emphasizes the importance of large-scale immigration reform, while our local governments continue eliminating possibilities for immigrant families to succeed?
On Wednesday April 24, 40 adult education students delivered a letter to the school board and superintendent’s offices demanding a morning meeting with school board members because their work and childcare schedules make it impossible to attend the bi-monthly evening meetings. The letter denounced the decision to close these classes stating, “If you take away this opportunity to learn, then we cannot progress. Within immigrant communities, English and GED programs are very important tools for overcoming adversity in this country.”
The school board responded by scheduling a meeting addressing the concerns of the students and teachers with members Rosie Torres and David Kakishiba on May 1st at 10am.
The meeting took place in the Coliseum College Prep Academy auditorium. Three board members attended (Torres, Kakishiba and Harris) as well as over 150 adult education students and teachers as well as other supporters. The meeting took place in Spanish, Arabic and English and was facilitated by CCPA adult education students. There were people in attendance from many schools including: Korematzu, Allendale, La Escuelita, CCPA, CUES, Futures, ROOTS, Fruitvale, Lafayette, New Highland, Brookfield, Esperanza. During the meeting the adult students came out in force to present demands and speak to the necessity of these classes and more! The board members expressed support for adult education but made no commitments. The board members said that a decision will be made regarding this issue on May 22nd and invited all supporters of adult education to attend that meeting.
When explaining their decision to cut adult education classes, some board members stated that we must prioritize our children, that in Oakland we care about our children. Some of the greatest determinants of child success is the involvement of parents in their students’ education, and also the income levels of their families. Adult education classes keep parents involved in schools, allow them to get better jobs and learn the language that helps them support their children’s academics. There is no such thing as choosing between children and parents. It is both or neither.
The district has also tried to defer all responsibilities for these cuts to the state government’s decision transitioning adult education classes to community colleges. There are many complexities to the state situation, but it is clear that regardless of what decision is made in the next month at the state level, OUSD has a decision to make in our school district. They can prioritize these classes within their budget plans or they can cut them and not serve these communities. The OUSD budget is under the direct control of the school board and they can choose to fund these classes if they want to.
When asked what it would take to win this struggle, one student said that we need the “unity and power of all the other schools”. The students believe that, “it is our right and our obligation to learn in order to defend ourselves in this country” and for this reason have continued to fight and gain support. The students’ inspiring energy and commitment to this struggle has given renewed strength to the adult education teachers and K-12 teachers to fight for these adult education classes and for other needs in our schools.
It is clear to the students in the class that there is money in this district and there is money in this country, and they demand an answer to this question: “As documented and undocumented people in this country we pay taxes, where is that money going? They need to return to us some of what we contribute.”
Demands of the family Literacy students at CCPA:
Why save adult education?
Margarita Monteverde is an OUSD teacher.