Keep students home this Friday



The Oakland Unified School District is asking families to keep their students home this Friday, April 29, as the Oakland Education Association teachers’ union plans to stage an all-day strike against school closures . The union announced the strike on Sunday.

The school district sent the message to families on Tuesday, after sending the teachers union a cease and desist letter last week. The district argues that the strike is in violation of its current collective agreement with the union and is pursuing legal remedies against the action.

About three-quarters of OAS members voted in favor of the one-day strike, according to the union, which argues that OUSD is in violation of a district policy that requires schools and families to have enough time to prepare in case of closure. .

“We call on OUSD and our elected officials to provide students and schools with the support they need, instead of closing our schools,” OAS President Keith Brown told a conference on Tuesday. union press. “Stop the disruption, stop the dislocation for Oakland students and educators.”

The one-day strike is the latest protest against the district against school closures, which have long been a contentious issue at OUSD. Two college staff went on an 18-day hunger strike earlier this year, and students, teachers and families have staged walkouts, marches and other rallies to oppose the closures.

District leaders said the closures were necessary to save money and that declining enrollment has left OUSD with too many schools for the number of students it is enrolling. A financial analysis of closures and consolidations commissioned by OUSD estimated that the district would save between $4 million and $15 million. By choosing to close the schools, the district also became eligible to receive additional one-time funding of $10 million through Assembly Bill 1840, which allocates money to financially distressed school districts that take steps to reduce expenses.

This year, Community Day School and Parker K-8 will close, and La Escuelita K-8 will lose its college. RISE Community School and New Highland Academy are also merging into one school this year. Next year, five more schools will close: Brookfield Elementary, Carl B. Munck Elementary, Grass Valley Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary and Korematsu Discovery Academy. Hillcrest K-8 will become strictly an elementary school next year.

Opponents have pointed out that closed schools have a disproportionately higher number of black students than the district as a whole, where black students make up less than a quarter of the total enrollment. More than half of the students at Community Day, Grass Valley, Parker and Carl B. Munck are black. Families of students with disabilities have also drawn attention to how the closures could upend their lives.

“Schools that are closing have a high number of students with disabilities,” said Ismael Armendariz, vice president of the OAS. “These are students who already face ostracism at their school sites, they are often segregated and experiencing instability in their schools, because of the way we place students in special education.”

In a message sent to families on Tuesday, OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said the district is unlikely to be able to cover all staff absences on Friday and that families should not send their children to school that day. All school sports taking place on Fridays will also be canceled or postponed.

“We know this presents many challenges for many of our families, especially given the short notice we’ve all had about this,” Johnson-Trammell said. “Losing a day of school, especially for struggling students who need more time with their teachers, can have a big impact.”

In March 2019, the OUSD School Board approved a resolution stating that no closure, merger, or consolidation would occur without providing affected school sites and families with at least nine months, or one school year, to plan. The resolution came a month after a seven-day teachers’ strike by the OAS over low salaries, increased classroom sizes and school closures.

The OUSD board voted in February to approve the latest round of shutdowns, several of which will be implemented by August, about seven months after the vote. In response, the teachers’ union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Public Employee Relations Commission, claiming that the OUSD violated its own resolution and refused to negotiate the impacts of the closures with the union.

Opponents of school closures also pointed to the “Reparations for Black Students” resolution, which directs the district to analyze any closures, consolidations, or mergers, to determine how those decisions might disproportionately impact students of color. low-income students or students with disabilities.

“We did everything we could imagine to express how harmful these closures are and how much damage they cause not just for a day, but for eternity,” said Kampala Taiz-Rancifer, another officer of the the OAS. “These permanent school closures are having incredible harm on communities of color, especially those in the black community.”

Mandy Hu, staff attorney for the California Teachers Association who represents the OAS, said a hearing on the unfair labor charge was scheduled for May 20 with the Public Employee Relations Board. During the hearing, both parties will present their cases. A judge will make a decision, but their deliberation could take months. The OUSD could also seek an injunction from the Public Employee Relations Board before Friday to try to stop the strike.

That may not be the only legal issue Oakland Unified faces over its shutdown plan. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California also filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office. The ACLU says district closures have had disproportionate impacts on black students in the past and urges Rob Bonta to investigate.

“If closures are to happen, they should not be done on the backs of black students and black families who have borne the brunt of this history of targeting schools for closure and mergers,” said Linnea Nelson, attorney. of the ACLU. “In the current closure plan, the district failed to conduct the required equity analysis, the school district failed to consult with OUSD students, families, and community leaders while they were working out.”

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