Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education
We are Oakland parents, students, teachers and school workers who are organizing for the defense and transformation of our public schools. We are fighting for the public schools that students and communities deserve. These are public schools that are fully-funded, safe, democratically controlled, and committed to supporting every student to develop their full potential as creative, intelligent and caring human beings.
We need schools that are fully-funded in order to support the full development and potential of each student, teacher, and our communities. Instead of budget cuts, bare bones funding and concentration of resources at the top, we need to fight for new sources of school funding and democratic control of resources.
We believe curriculum should be deeply meaningful to students’ lives through a holistic approach to education that supports the self-actualization of young people, and gives us the skills we need to both to survive within capitalism and to overthrow it. We vigorously oppose “reforms” that track students, standardize our education and turn us into data points.
We understand that in order for students to learn they need to feel safe. We foster safe schools through the development of the social and emotional supports students need to forge a path outside of the violence that surrounds us, as well as through struggle against the violence waged by the state and owning class against working class, oppressed groups and political dissidents and struggle to shift the violence internalized in our communities.
We need democratically controlled schools where decisions are made by the people who use and run them: teachers, parents, school workers, students.
We believe the following changes could move us toward this vision:
Decision-Making – Parent, teacher, student and school worker representatives have real decision-making power at school site level; School decision making informed by bi-annual community wide assemblies to discuss all changes and budgeting.
Class-size and caseloads – Sharply reduce class size and special education caseloads across K-12.
Curriculum – Shift away from standardized testing towards meaningful assessments and critical thinking based curriculum; Integrate ethnic studies and community based learning (i.e. participatory research and internships) throughout the curriculum; Fully fund athletic/music/art programs.
Full Service Community Schools – Actualize the district’s slogan of “full service community schools” by ensuring that the social, emotional and health of each student is supported by school-based health services, schools counselors and speech therapists with manageable caseloads, and healthy food.
Transportation – Provide free AC Transit and BART cards for students and parents so that no one misses school or goes without other basic needs because of the strain of paying for public transportation to school
Safety – Replace school police with restorative justice facilitators and conflict mediators (train SSOs to play these roles); Moratorium on suspensions and expulsions except when there are serious threats to safety.
Early Childhood and Adult Education – Broaden the reach of our schools to the full community – reopen early childhood and adult education programs in every neighborhood.
Staff Retention – Invest in school workers and retain them through 1) raising wages/benefits of classified staff (office, support, custodial and security workers); 2) unionizing afterschool teachers and other un-unionized school workers; and 3) a fair contract for Oakland teachers that increases planning time and decreases caseload.
Teacher Training – Institute fully-funded projects of team teaching where new teachers can team-teach with veteran teachers; Fight burnout and incompetency by keeping the veteran teachers active and on their toes while the newer teachers gain the wisdom and experience their more senior co-workers embody.
School Closures and Charters – Moratorium on school closures and shift in policy towards supporting students through increasing stability of the school and surrounding community not further destabilizing them – Moratorium on new charter schools as charter schools selectively recruit OUSD students and increase the segregation of our school system. Convert current charter schools back to public schools. Reform top-down curriculum controls that incentive some public schools to go charter.
We need to fight for the money to implement these changes:
Shift priorities as a society – raise taxes on the wealthy, demand banks pay back the bailout money, stop building prisons, cut military spending
Reform Proposition 13 so that California’s per pupil spending is no longer among the lowest in the U.S.
Renegotiate the state debt – Oakland students should not be held accountable for money wasted by state trustee
Demand influx of Local Control Funding Formula funds go to the students who need it most (low-income, English language learners, special education and foster youth)
Tax the Port of Oakland – Use this money to fund Oakland schools
Shift priorities for how we use funding the district already has – Lower admin salaries, cut consultants and move central office student support positions to school sites.
We need to organize collectively to get there.
We need to organize ourselves as parents, teachers, school workers and students. We need to develop a democratic district-wide student union, parent union, teacher and school worker unions that are using to use their power through strikes and other militant actions to demand what our schools need.
We need to come together through the development of school site committees of parents, teachers, students and school workers, as well as a city-wide organization through which we can learn, teach and support each other’s struggles.
We need to ensure that the bases of power we build in schools and the community-at-large are independent from politicians, corporations and the administrators that work under their control.
We need to learn how to build an alliance of all oppressed sectors, races, genders, sexualities, abilities, religions that can unite through our different strengths without ignoring our deep divisions.
We need to envision what it would look like for us to organize across all workplaces, communities, and sectors that are under attack by the same forces in capitalism and to grow a common movement that reaches across Oakland and out towards the Bay Area, California, the U.S., and the world.