The Oakland Teachers will most likely go on strike and I am advocating for UPM to take a position in support of the teachers. This is near to my heart as my daughter Natalie MacIntyre is a 1st grade teacher at Manzanita Community Elementary School. Please read her letter which I have copied below; it is an excellent analysis of the problem and ends with actions to take to support the teachers. Please let me know how I can best work with UPM on this issue.
Thanks so much,
Sara Lefkowitz Nursing Education COM
Lots of people have been asking about the potential teacher strike in Oakland.
Right now is a very scary, difficult, and critical moment for Oakland Public Schools.
Teachers are striking for better pay, lower class sizes, and more wrap around services (counselors and nurses). However, like the LA teacher strike, this strike is about standing up for the existence public schools. Teachers are striking against school closures and the displacement of students.
The Oakland School Board released a plan to close 24 Schools. The notable thing about this plan, is that all the schools on the list to close are in EAST and WEST OAKLAND. The school board and pro charter organizations are arguing that OUSD operates too many schools, there is declining enrollment, and they want to consolidate resources. There is a narrative that the schools chosen to be closed are failing. However, an ample body of research has found the strongest predictorof test scores in a school isn't teacher quality or curriculum, but rather the percentage of its students who live below the poverty line.
In the 2017-2018 school year, OUSD served 2,862 Newcomer students. Newcomers are often refugees and asylees . They are students who have been in the United States for less than three years and come from a non English speaking household. Although, schools, like mine, with a large newcomer population, do so much to meet the needs of their Newcomers, test scores don’t reflect that, or take into account that students are just beginning to learn English. Many of our Newcomer students never attended school before coming to the United States.
Oakland has a housing crisis. We know that poor people and black and brown communities are affected the most by this. So many students in OUSD right now are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. As families move from place to place to try to stay in Oakland, it is difficult for them to get their kids to school everyday. My school is located near to the Salvation Army family homeless shelter. Many of our students are staying at the shelter, but can only be there for three months. This means we experience a lot of turnover in our student population. The teachers at my school are so welcoming to students. In the past few years our staff has really worked on developing our ability to meet students’ social-emotional needs. Our skills in addressing the traumas kids face, such as homelessness, have significantly developed. However, despite all we do to serve our students, having a transitory population doesn't make for great test scores.
It is easy for the district to justify school closures, but by saying schools are failing. However, the students being displaced are from their school communities are the districts’ most vulnerable kiddos.
Since the state takeover, the district has opened too many charter schools. Not all charter schools are bad, but so many were opened that the resources of the district were spread too thin. Now this is being used as justification to shut down public schools, but only in East and West Oakland. This creates a system where middle class families have access to public schools, but other families don't. There has been no family or community engagement around the school closings.
There is a very good chance that my school will be closed and my students displaced. There is not enough room in the surrounding schools for all 435 Manzanita Community Students.
So, I am going on strike.
To me, these teacher strikes, LA, Denver, Oakland, are really a fight about public education and holding corrupt school boards accountable to the public interest.