Oakland teachers went on strike Feb. 21 in a fight against privatization and for racial justice in Oakland schools. Striking teachers sent messages to parents after two days to report the picket line had over 97 percent teacher participation, with only 3 percent of students attending school.
Oakland teachers are strong and united in their strike. Their union, the Oakland Education Association, has four demands: a 12 percent raise over 3 years; smaller class sizes; more counselors and nurses; and a moratorium on neighborhood public school closures.
Under a 5-year plan recently unveiled by the Oakland Unified School District and adopted by the school board, 24 neighborhood public schools will be closed or consolidated. Some will be forced to share campuses with charter schools.
“This is a racial justice issue,” said OEA president Keith Brown. “We will fight to keep our neighborhood schools open.” The overall student population in Oakland is about 45 percent Latinx students and 26 percent African-American students. (Alameda Magazine, Dec. 4, 2018)
Brown noted at a recent press conference that outside consultants are being paid tens of thousands of dollars per month to sell this privatization plan.
A typical strike day in Oakland involves picketing at individual schools for several hours in the morning, then meeting at a central rallying point. On the first day of the strike, over 3,000 teachers and supporters marched several blocks from Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland to the OUSD offices.
On the second day after picketing in front of their schools, teachers and supporters met at a park in West Oakland and marched to the office of GO Public Schools. This is an organization that supports and promotes charter schools in Oakland. Thirty percent of Oakland schools are run by charter companies.
OEA strike leadership emphasizes that teachers and the Oakland community are fighting to stop the opening of new charter schools at the expense of closing neighborhood public schools.
On the weekend of Feb. 23-24, teachers came together at an Art Build to silkscreen signs for the coming week’s picket lines. Teachers, parents and students gathered in the garage of the OEA building for several hours, hand painting banners for various school sites.
During the first week of the strike, several schools had no students and were virtually forced to shut down. According to OEA strike organizers, the school district was not prepared for the overwhelming student, parent and community support for the strike. OEA teachers hoped for even stronger picket lines the week of Feb. 25.
Community members are urged to join the picket line at any school to support the strike. Organizations and individuals can “adopt” a school and bring food to striking teachers. For more information and a site map of Oakland schools, go to the Oakland Education Association website, oaklandea.org, and/or www.facebook.com/OaklandEA/.
Judy Greenspan is a striking Oakland teacher.