Oakland Public School Community Fights Back Against School Closures

The resistance of Oakland teachers and public school community members forced the school board to keep open 7 schools that were slated for closure, but the Oakland School Board is still set to close 11 schools by the next school year in a bid to privatize the Oakland school system.
By Shane Redden
At the first school board meeting of 2022 the Oakland School Board voted in a new president and a renewed commitment to close or merge public schools between the end of this school year and the 2022/23 year. The motion was brought by Gary Yee (district 4) and Shanthi Gonzales (district 6). This move shocked the broader community of Oakland, considering that at the beginning of the year the school board voted to move away from closing public schools. That was a decision that didn’t sit well with both Directors Yee & Gonzales who both have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from ruling class billionaires and corporate foundations to reshape Oakland Unified into a majority charter district, while any surplus property to be sold to real estate developers to build revenue. In response to near unanimous outrage the board held two special meetings, the first on Jan. 31st where they revealed the list of schools to be closed or merged and then again on Feb. 8th where the board voted.
Between the two special meetings the affected schools organized walkouts, sickouts, parent strikes and protests at Board Directors homes. Two educators, from Westlake Middle School, took the drastic step of going on a hunger strike to bring media attention to these nefarious plans.
At the Feb. 8 special meeting, the Oakland public school community made public comment after public comment for over four hours. Each and every student, parent, educator and resident spoke passionately against these closures. At the close of public comments the board passed several amendments to the original motion that scaled down the list from 18 to 11 and increased the timeline for many of the sites slated for closure; but despite the unanimous dissent the board voted 4-2 with one abstention to close/merge 11 schools between June 2022 and June 2023. The board cited pressure from both Alameda County, FCMAT(Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team) and the State of California to continue the plan to “right size” the district based on the number of campuses and declining enrollment. Yet, with Sacramento swimming in record budget surplus and a global pandemic still wreaking havoc across the country, these public school closures are consistent with disaster capitalism. In other words, the ruling class of Oakland using the pandemic as cover to complete the privatization of Oakland Unified School District.

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