The Activist

Issue #265, 02-24-2019

In this issue:
Support striking Oakland teachers!
About the Oakland teachers' strike
Billionaires can't teach our kids
Weds WCCUSD vote on charter school moratorium!
Pressure building to stop charter schools in CA
Thursday: RPA film night
From the weekend...

Support striking Oakland teachers!

As The Activist went to press on Sunday, Oakland school district officials and teachers union leaders were back at the bargaining table, after talks ended with no resolution at 7pm on Friday.

Supporters of public education should be prepared to come out to the picket lines and stand with teachers on Monday if they continue their strike. It's reported that charter school teachers plan to stage a sick-out in solidarity with public school counterparts on Monday as well.

Morning picket lines, which are most critical, start at every school site and at 1000 Broadway at 6:30am. Click the map above to view picket sites, and if possible go to the priority locations, indicated by the yellow lightening bolt.

There are also daily rallies at 11:30am, and afternoon pickets start at 2:30.

For updates and details, see Oakland Education Association website.

About the Oakland teachers strike

The Oakland Education Association, the local teachers union, has been in negotiations with the school district since their contract expired in 2017. This latest round of talks came after thousands of Oakland teachers, counselors and nurses went on strike for two days last week. The teachers are demanding higher pay, more counselors and nurses, and smaller class sizes. They are also fighting against the closure of 24 of 86 public schools – many of which serve children of color.

In this video the teachers say school districts are spending too much money on privately run charter schools that are not well regulated. And that their salaries can’t keep up with the cost of living, which is especially egregious in a state with so much wealth.

Given that the average one-bedroom apartment in Oakland costs about $2,680 per month, but new Oakland teachers earn about $46,500 a year, the union is demanding a 12 percent pay increase over three years. According to OEA President Keith Brown, 571 Oakland teachers left the classroom last year, mostly because they could not afford to keep teaching.

If the Oakland teachers’ demands sound similar to those in Los Angeles, it’s because of the structural issues underpinning the problems of school district deficits, low teacher pay, and educational inequities. Proposition 13, which strictly limits property tax rates in the state, have perversely pitted taxpayers against students, and today California ranks 41st in the country (adjusted for the cost of living) in terms of student spending.

Another structural problem: charter schools. Oakland Unified School District is facing a $30 million budget deficit this year, in large part due to dwindling enrollment from the rapid growth of charter schools in the city. 

Billionaires can't teach our kids

Check out this new video from the Oakland Education Association. It explains how billionaire charter school backers have bought School Board members and created a financial crisis for the district. $57 million is being siphoned away from community public schools annually; the lack of money to pay teachers means that 1 in 5 teachers leave Oakland schools every year, depriving students of experienced educators.

Weds WCCUSD vote on charter school moratorium!

chatercartoon.pngThis Wednesday, the WCCUSD School Board will vote to approve or reject Trustee Consuelo Lara's resolution on charter schools. If it passes, the district will impose “a moratorium on the establishment of new charter schools in the state of CA, and will seek to have state legislation introduced and enacted to establish such a moratorium.”

The RPA Schools Action Team recently met with Trustees Lara and Kronenberg urging them to, among others things, require that the district do a financial analysis of charter schools in WCCUSD. (Lara’s proposal includes this) SAT member Carlos Taboada roughly estimates that the district is subsidizing charters to the tune of $30 million each year. At yesterday's RPA membership meeting, he warned that if nothing is done, in a few years WCCUSD will be facing the same situation as Oakland, which is currently considering closing almost 30 percent of its schools.

On Wednesday's school board meeting, there may also be consideration of an alternative proposal brought forward by pro-charter Board members, who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions last year.

Please attend the February 27 Board of Education to speak in favor of Lara's resolution! It will be held at 6:30pm at Lovonya DeJean Middle School Multipurpose Room, 3400 Macdonald Ave. (The entrance to the Multipurpose Room is on 33rd Street). We need to pack the room, as the charter school proponents will be busing people in.

Other things you can do:

  • Email board members Lara, Cuevas, and Hernandez-Jarvis to thank them for their support of the resolution.
  • Attend the March 7 Charter Facilities Study Session, location TBA, to learn more about the district’s options for housing its current charter schools.
  • Attend Mister Phillip’s Town Hall about closing Crespi, Thursday, March 14, 6 - 8 pm, at Hilltop Church of Christ, 3301 Morningside Drive, El Sobrante. This is another way to learn more about the district’s options for housing its current charter schools.
  • To stay abreast of efforts in West County to defend public schools, subscribe to the publiccore email list.
  • The RPA School Action Team meets every 2nd Tuesday in the month at 4:30 at Bobby Bowens Progressive Center. RPA members and others who want to participate in finding ways to improve and defend public education are welcome to attend. 

Pressure building to stop charter schools in CA

Pressure to cap charter school expansion seems to be reaching a tipping point in California. Many groups, from the NAACP, to the RPA and Black Lives Matters have demanded a stop to the expansion of charters. In the wake of the recent LA teachers’ strike, the Los Angeles School Board passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

Governor Newsom, in his State of the State address, lumped in charter growth with overcrowded classrooms and understaffing schools as a “stressor” facing California schools. He has asked state Superintendent for Schools Tony Thurmond (who beat a charter-backed candidate in 2018) to lead a statewide commission to examine the impacts of charter schools on public education.

At the urging of the governor, the Senate is fast tracking SB 126, a bill that will require charter schools to be more accountable and transparent, for example by complying with the same open meeting, conflict of interest and disclosure laws as district school boards.

Another important bill -- that is not yet moving -- is SB 1362, which would allow school districts to reject charter school applications on the basis of the financial impact it would have on the district. Currently, a 1998 state law explicitly prevents districts from doing so.

An article from EdSource, “San Jose district draws the line – to no avail – on adding another charter school” explains the origin of SB 1362.

The school board of the East Side Union High School District in San Jose defied state law last year when it cited financial impact in rejecting a proposal for a second charter high school from San Francisco-based KIPP Public Schools. Now district officials want the Legislature to change the state’s charter school statute so other districts can make the same decision they did without breaking the law.

California law lists more than a dozen elements in a charter petition that authorizing bodies must evaluate when deciding whether to approve a charter school. Not one of them is a charter school’s potential financial impact on a district, chiefly a loss in state revenue from a decline in a district’s student enrollment…

East Side Union Superintendent Chris Funk was equally upfront this past March, when, to no avail, he asked the State Board of Education to recognize the district’s financial plight and reject KIPP’s appeal of the district’s decision. “We are not asking you to change law but to take a stand: Enough is enough,” he said.

Thursday: RPA movie night

You would think access to clean water is a human right. Well not quite. In some parts of the world, people have to fight hard or even sacrifice their life for it. Water is considered blue gold or 'next oil', over which could be the future wars fought. Based on the book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, this film examines environmental and political implications of the planet's dwindling water supply.

The film also highlights some success stories of water activists around the world. Among them is Ryan, who began at age six fundraising to build wells for people in Africa, eventually established Ryan's Well Foundation bringing clean water to countries where people have to walk for hours to fetch water which may not even be clean.

This is first in a series of films about hydropolitics we will be watching. As the amount of drinkable water is getting scarce due to pollution and population growth, at the same time, transnational corporations are increasingly plotting to control the world’s water supply, toughening the environmental protection efforts.
Date: Thursday, February 28
Time: 6:30-7:00pm potluck; 7:00-9:30ish screening and discussion
Venue: Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, 2540 Macdonald Ave., Richmond

Please join us! We are changing the format to allow time for food and getting settled before screening. Please bring some snacks.

From the weekend...

  • RPA membership meeting. In case you missed it, yesterday’s RPA membership meeting was a good one. Members voted for the RPA to become a fiscally sponsored project of Tides Advocacy. The group also discussed steps for putting together a coordinated and organized endorsement process for the next elections, and ideas for an RPA political platform. We had report outs from the Housing and Schools Action Teams, as well as Councilmember Martinez. And as always, there was a call for volunteers – in particular we need folks to join the Housing Action Team as well as the Membership Committee. Our next membership meeting will be on April 27.
  • Did you see it? Saturday morning RPA members and others organized a visibility action over I-80. This comes shortly after President Trump called for regime change in Venezuela, in a major speech urging the Venezuelan military to abandon its support for President Nicolás Maduro and to support self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó. During the speech, Trump said the U.S. seeks a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela, but that all options remain on the table.