News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.

Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.

East Bay DSA

February 27, 2019

“They are the backbone of our society.” OUSD parents tell us why they support the strike.

By Stephanie Hung

Oakland teachers returned to the picket line for a fifth day today, and its clear the parents of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) are united behind them. Only three percent of students went to school on Monday, according to the Oakland Education Association (OEA)—the vast majority of families kept their students home in support of the teachers.

Oakland parents continue to support the teachers’ strike because they understand that a strong strike in support of OEA’s contract demands — for smaller class sizes, more student supports, raises that will keep teachers in the district, and an end to school closures — is the best path to improving learning conditions for their children.

“From a parent’s perspective, OEA is doing a really great job,” said Kim Davis, the founder of Parents United for Public Schools, a network for OUSD parent organizing. “This is bigger than a compensation issue,” Davis added. “Teachers are trying to change the way it has always been. Kids are not receiving the benefits or resources they should be getting.”

Nicole Gonzales, a parent of a five-year-old at Cleveland Elementary School in Oakland, has formed a cooperative program where students can go during the day instead of going to school. She says she’s organizing not just to have a place for students every day, but to protect public education in Oakland. “I have no reservations. I one-hundred percent support them,” Gonzales said.

She saw the teachers on strike as people standing up for their students’ future: “Charter schools can pick and choose who they educate, and for all the kids they choose not to educate, where do they go?” she asked. “Public schools. If we don’t fund our public schools, that school-to-prison pipeline will just keep happening.”

She had a message for those who are not in support of the strike: “We should support teachers because we have all been educated by teachers, we have all had teachers who have impacted our lives. They are the backbone of our society.”

Another parent, Adeleida Rios, who has a son in the seventh grade at Roots International Academy, expressed why it is so important to meet the demands of OEA and what happens when we continue to allow school privatizers to shut down schools. “[The school closure] will affect me because I don’t have another spot in another school for my son,” she said. “And that means he doesn’t have an eighth grade to go to.”

Rios added if the OUSD school board decides to send her son to a different school, it will be around a 30-block walk for him, as well as a traumatic disruption to his education. “He loves the school,” said Rios. “He’s never been so happy.” Roots, a middle school that predominantly serves students of color, is scheduled to close at the end of this school year to make way for more charters and further privatization of the district.

Parents all over Oakland back the teachers’ strike because they see their stake in this movement. Charter schools are replacing public schools rapidly across the country, one of the factors prompting teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Los Angeles, and Denver. The strike wave has now come to both red and blue states, because billionaires have influence over both parties.

The struggle is now about average working people fighting for a democratic process and protecting the education of our children from the billionaires and their allies who are driven by a profit motive and have an interest in widening the class divide.