Oakland, CA – 2,000 Oakland students, parents, teachers and school staff will rally at Cesar Chavez School Auditorium this evening to protest the State’s attempt to enforce $25 Million in wrongful fines and charges on Oakland’s public schools.
Oakland schools are fighting $25 million in unfair fines and charges that the State is trying to levy on the District for decisions and actions of the State’s own appointed Administrator while local schools were under State management from 2003 to 2009. Parents are calling the fines outrageous and unfair, as the fines were incurred by the State itself.
“Our students are paying for errors made by the State when our local schools were completely under the State’s management and control,” said Lillian Lopez, a parent and OCO leader. “Justice demands that kids shouldn’t have to pay for adult mistakes, particularly when the State was in charge. Don’t leave our kids holding the bag!”
Oakland parents and school district officials have put their hopes on AB 609; Assemblymember Sandré Swanson’s pending legislation to eliminate the fines. The bill goes before the State Assembly’s Education Committee tomorrow in Sacramento. Scores of Oakland parents plan to bus to Sacramento tomorrow morning, to testify and show support for the legislation.
By returning $25 million to Oakland schools, parents, students and teachers are hoping to find some relief from forthcoming cuts the District is facing in order to address its $30 million budget deficit. While the School district has been able to avoid sweeping teacher layoffs, it is still planning major cuts to after-school, enrichment, and family literacy programs; school security officers; teachers’ aides; and other school staff.
“We’re making miracles happen already because school programs have already been cut, and we can’t afford more,” said Marisela Macias, founding parent at ASCEND school with three children attending. “As a parent, we pay taxes. Our kids deserve a fair education. We shouldn’t be begging for crumbs. We shouldn’t have to ask for what our kids deserve.”
“Taking resources from schools that are striving and helping to push children forward doesn’t help our children succeed,” said Deanita Lewis, OCO Parent leader at Coliseum College Preparatory Academy (CCPA) School. “Our after-school and enrichment programs have made my daughters into much stronger, well-rounded teenagers. Because of these programs, there is less temptation to get into trouble on the streets of Oakland. If kids don’t have access to activities that benefit them, we have to ask, what else are they doing on the streets?”
In addition to cutting after-school and enrichment programs, the District has proposed reductions in school security officers, teacher aids and other school staff. School staffs who are threatened with layoffs at FUTURES Elementary school help to tell the story of the critical contributions all school staff make, in creating whole school communities which help learning to thrive.
“School Security Officer Al Rhodes greets every child and parent as they enter the school to help create a safe, welcoming environment,” said LaRika Lee, a six-year Havenscourt neighborhood resident and parent at FUTURES. “This year there have already been 12 or 13 lockdowns at our school due to neighborhood violence, and our School Security Officer is responsible for making sure every child and adult is safe during a crisis.”
Rosia Butler is an academic mentor at FUTURES who describes her role in assisting teachers. “I make it possible for teachers to teach,” Butler said. “I support 17 teachers who call me whenever they have a challenging situation in the classroom. I take the disruptive student out and help them individually while the teaching in the classroom goes on.”
As the most improved large, urban district in California over the last five years, Oakland schools deserve more than additional State money grabs. Schools like Manzanita SEED Elementary, which was named a 2010 National Title I Distinguished School for having the most success in closing the achievement gap between its student groups, demonstrates the successes that can happen when a core team of parents, teachers, and administrators come together to create a learning community everyone supports.
“These cutbacks threaten our whole approach,” said Katherine Carter, Principal at Manzanita SEED. “Our school is founded on family leadership and our successes are the culmination of years of work from our teachers, school staff and parents. You can’t just cut teachers or program aides and expect the same results.”
Students agree. “We don’t get the resources we need to prepare for college, said Mildred Gonzales, a CCPA student. “Do they care? The more they take from us, the harder it is to succeed.”