Teachers Demand School Funding

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Teachers and supporters march through downtown Oakland, Saturday, Jan. 12. Shown are (third from left) David Goldberg, secretary-treasurer of the California Teachers Association; and (fourth from left) Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association. Photo by Amir Saadiq.

As Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) teachers prepare for a pos­sible strike, many teachers, students, and community members are showing sup­port for their demand to increase public education funding.

On Saturday, Jan. 12, several thousand East Bay teachers and their supporters gathered at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater and marched to Oakland City Hall for a “Rally to Fund Public Edu­cation Now,” organized by the Oakland Education As­sociation (OEA).

Many in the enthusi­astic crowd wore #Red­forEd T-shirts and carried signs reading, “Fight for the Schools Students Deserve” and “Ready to Strike.”

At Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall, musicians showed support by playing brass instruments and drums, while union leaders and ed­ucators led chants such as “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Where did all the teachers go?” – ad­dressing OEA’s concern that because OUSD teachers are paid so much less than neigh­boring districts, between 20- 25 percent of Oakland teach­ers leave every year.

“We’re fighting for es­sential resources for our stu­dents, smaller class size, in­vestment in student supports, and we’re fighting for a living wage to keep good teachers in Oakland,” said OEA presi­dent Keith Brown, a Bret Harte Middle School teacher.

Brown said OUSD would be able to raise teacher sala­ries if the district cuts its spending on central office administrators and outside consultants and stops hand­ing over students, state fund­ing and school sites to charter schools. He also called on the state to increase funding for the long term health of public education.

“We want to have a com­petitive salary so people stop leaving the district,” said physical education teacher Toussaint Stewart, who added that positive long-term relationships with teachers are crucial for young people.

“It’s traumatizing for our kids when so many of their teachers leave,” he said.

The City Hall rally was organized by The East Bay Coalition for Public Edu­cation, which called for in­creased funding for all East Bay schools with a special focus on Oakland, and was supported by over a dozen local teachers unions.

Speakers also spoke out against OUSD’s proposal to cut 24 schools. Teach­ers and parents from Roots International Academy in East Oakland have been pushing for a dialogue with Supt. Kyla Johnson-Tram­mel and the school board since December, when Trammel announced that Roots was closing.

The Roots’ speakers said their school needs increased funding, not closure. They want the district to strength­en their neighborhood school, not scatter students and families to other schools throughout East Oakland.

One of the speakers was David Goldberg, Secretary Treasurer of the California Teachers Association, who flew up from Los Angeles to show solidarity.

He said the teachers’ fight for better salaries and the students’ fight for a better education are inseparable.

“Our struggle for dignity for our teachers has to be connected to our struggle for social justice for our stu­dents,” said Goldberg.

In her remarks, East Bay Senator Nancy Skinner said the state has contributed to the financial difficulties OUSD is currently facing, including the state takeover in 2003.

“The state owes OUSD,” said Skinner. “I stand in soli­darity with you.”

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