Hundreds of educators, parents and labor organizers filled Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland on Saturday to rally on a number of issues including increased funding in public education, improved teacher contracts and the expected closure of up to two dozen schools in the Oakland Unified School District.
They were inspired by the "Red4Ed" movement that sparked teacher activism and strikes last year in conservative states including West Virginia and Oklahoma.
But they were also marching in solidarity with teachers in Los Angeles who are expected to go on strike this week. At the same time, Oakland teachers are preparing for their own strike as early as next month as contract negotiations continue.
“In Oakland and L.A. we are fighting for the same things: essential resources for our students. Our students deserve good teachers,” said Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Educators Association. Brown says Oakland teachers are asking for a wage increase, smaller class sizes and more social services — such as counselors and nurses — in schools.
Oakland’s teachers are some of the lowest paid in the Bay Area, many say the cost of living is too high for them to live in Oakland forcing them to commute long distances to their schools.
On top of these long-simmering issues, OUSD recently announced plans to close up to 24 public schools, many of them in East Oakland. Staff at Roots International Academy were notified of its closure recently.
“We are trying to fight that and keep it open because in East Oakland there’s not many middle schools,” said Silvia Orneles, a parent of an eighth grader at the school. “A lot of parents are really upset. They're saying, 'Where’s my child gonna go?' There's only charter schools around us, and we don't want charter schools.”