Students Mobilize to Support #RedforEd Teachers Strike in Oakland, California

RedforEd Oakland teachers strike (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

A number of the 50,000 elementary and secondary school students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) are publicly supporting the #RedforEd inspired strike launched by about 3,000 Oakland Public School System teachers on Thursday.

Students in the district continue to perform poorly in measurements of educational achievement. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in November that “[a]ccording to the Scholastic Reading Inventory, an assessment of reading performance, only 36 percent of students in the Oakland district were reading at or above grade level in spring 2017. A total of a 41 percent of students lagged more than one year below grade level.”

Public school students in the state of California were rated in 2013 among the bottom ten performing states across the country. In statewide tests administered in 2017, OUSD public school students fared poorly when compared to the rest of the public school students in California:

  • Citywide, about one-third of students meet or exceed proficiency standards in math and ELA (specifically, 35% in ELA and 28% in Math.) This includes data from all district-run and charter public schools in Oakland.
  • Statewide, 48% of students were proficient in ELA and 38% of students were proficient in Math.

While the OUSD is apparently not educating students in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic very well, the school system, with the help of encouragement from striking teachers, does appear to be able to instruct its students on how to mobilize politically

As Breitbart News reported last week, #RedforEd is  ” [a] well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats across the country as Republicans barely hang on in key states that they need to hold for President Donald Trump to win re-election and for Republicans to have a shot at retaking the House and holding onto their Senate majority.”

Teachers unions in the United States have become increasingly aggressive since early 2018, launching strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Los Angeles, California, and Denver, Colorado, spurred on by a social media campaign known as #RedforEd, which was launched in March 2018 by Noah Karvelis, a 24-year-old left-wing political activist in just his second year as a public school teacher in Arizona.

Ostensibly focused on better pay for teachers, the real objective of the #RedforEd movement, as expressed by its young founder at the Socialism 2018 conference held in Chicago this July, is to obtain political power to advance a socialist agenda.

Student support for the demands of the Oakland Education Association, “the exclusive representative of nearly 3000 teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians, speech pathologists, social workers and teacher substitutes in K-12, Early Childhood and Adult Education in the Oakland Unified School District,” began on February 8, almost two weeks before the teachers went on strike, as KQED reported earlier this month, when hundreds of students, many wearing union red, marched across the city:

Hundreds of Oakland students from high schools across the city skipped class Friday morning to march from Oakland Technical High School to the school district’s downtown headquarters in a spirited show of support for their teachers, who are threatening to strike amid tense contract negotiations.

“I’m here to support our teachers, to fight for things that I want in our schools and show that this is not just a teacher issue. It’s a schoolwide, community issue,” said Avelina Rivezzo-Weber, a junior at Skyline High School, who helped organize students from her school.

Teens gathered on the plaza in front of Oakland Tech before the start of the school day, where student organizers discussed how to demonstrate safely and then led the crowd down Broadway.

Waving signs and banners, students chanted, “1-2-3-4, pay our Oakland teachers more!” and “We won’t stop! Chop from the top!”

Oakland Education Association teachers are demanding a 12 percent pay increase, smaller classes, and more counselors and nurses from a district that is already broke. As the Chronicle reported:

Oakland Unified has been hemorrhaging money for years. It faces a $30 million budget shortfall next year and a $60 million deficit the year after that.

The district is not alone in poor money management. In June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Education Trailer Bill, which will provide financial relief to districts across the state. Funding from the bill will cover up to 75 percent of the Oakland’s shortfall next year, up to 50 percent the next year, and up to 25 percent in the third year.

On Thursday, when Oakland Education Association teachers went out on strike, a number of students joined them on the front lines.

“[R]oughly 25 students . . joined teachers on the picket line in front of Oakland Tech Friday morning, on the second day of a districtwide teacher strike,” KQED reported over the weekend, adding:

Later on Friday afternoon, a sprinkling of students stood out among the sea of hundreds of teachers and supporters who congregated at a spirited rally in DeFremery Park in West Oakland, at the site where the Black Panther Party staged demonstrations and social programs a half century ago. A lineup of speakers, including two high school students and legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, fired up the crowd.

“Education is a big part of my life, teachers are a big part of my life,” said Marie Rodriguez, 16, a junior at Oakland High School, who stood in the thick of the rally. Nearby, amid the cacophony of drumming and horn blowing, a giant inflatable rat bobbed in the breeze. “If they’re out here fighting for a cause, I need to fight with them.”

Rodriguez said her father teaches at her school, so this strike has very much hit home. She said Oakland High has one part-time nurse for 1,700 students, and that some of her classes were so overcrowded at the beginning of this year there weren’t enough seats to go around.

“This is showing me how to advocate when things get to the point that you need to go out on the streets,” Rodriguez said, adding that she was planning to take the SATs in a few weeks, but she wasn’t too concerned about the lost days of preparation.

The city of Oakland is high on virtue signalling and low on common sense and economic practicality, having declared itself to be a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. According to its website, OUSD has followed the politically correct standard of the city, and declared itself a sanctuary school district:

Oakland is a Sanctuary City and OUSD is a Sanctuary District. We do not ask for or require proof of legal immigration status upon enrollment, nor is any such information gathered by a school. Hundreds of undocumented, newcomer and refugee students are thriving in our schools with help of the Office of English Language Learners and Multilingual Achievement (ELLMA) and we want to keep it that way.

When we say Every Student Thrives! at OUSD it means we stand behind our students no matter where they were born or the barriers they have overcome to be here. We cherish the cultural richness in our district and make no exceptions when it comes to including learners with a wide variety of backgrounds and needs.

The enormous costs of providing English Language Learning instruction in dozens of foreign languages at taxpayers’ expense is part of the financial problem facing the OUSD.

When Oakland teachers set up picket lines for the third day of their strike on Monday, a number of students are expected to join them once again.

 

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