On Wednesday, January 11th, the School Board for the Oakland Unified School District voted to keep the five schools open that were originally under plans to be shut down at the end of this school year. The vote does not change the status of the three schools that were closed last year. This decision is the culmination of a long and often difficult struggle of parents, students, teachers and community members to fight against the school closure agenda. It is the culmination of rallies and marches, community meetings, hunger strikes, occupations, walkouts and more. No doubt the news of reversing these closures has been a big relief for many in these school communities.
Unfortunately, the struggle is not over. Those within the school district who have advocated for school closures have not gone away, nor have they taken their rhetoric about “too many schools” making the district financially unsound.
At the core, closing schools is not a matter of being more cost effective with finances. In fact, this is something that OUSD even acknowledges themselves, particularly in research they did in the “fact-finding” process before the 2019 strike.
The claim that closing schools saves money is also not backed up by research that looked at school districts in a range of other cities. At best, savings for school districts were marginal.
Does the Oakland Unified School District have financial problems that need to be addressed? Yes. There are several reasons for that. One of the issues is how top heavy the administration is. For example, OUSD spends about six times as much for supervisors and administrators than the statewide average.
In addition, the decision of the school board may likely be challenged and overturned at the hands of County Superintendent.
What happens next remains to be seen. But regardless of what we face, we must rely on our own forces.