Young started The Oakland REACH in 2016, to empower Black and Latinx parents to advocate for their children. During the pandemic, fearful that flatlands kids were being left behind in distance learning, Young’s group began offering tutoring and classes that showed results.
CA Parent Power, led by Bacigalupi, began in 2020 in response to what some families perceived as a slow response to the reopening of schools during the pandemic, and was largely critical of teachers at the time.
Both groups share a distrust in the ability of the teachers union and the Oakland school district to represent their children’s interests during contract negotiations. They point to a long-term failure of Oakland Unified to improve student reading outcomes — with 46.9% of Oakland students currently reading below grade level, and 70.9% performing below grade level in math.
Keta Brown, another Oakland REACH parent, has looked at the language around the collective bargaining agreement, and she doesn’t see “kids” mentioned.
“You got to make certain that the consumer, which is these babies, are a part of your process and that you are keeping them at the forefront,” said Brown, who lives in an area of East Oakland where neighborhood schools have dismal math and reading scores. (She said she’s lucky she got her daughter into Edna Brewer Middle School, one of the district’s stronger middle schools. She commutes 25 minutes each way to get her child to and from school.)
The Oakland Educators Association has long made the case that, when it negotiates on behalf of teachers to increase pay and improve working conditions, it is in fact advocating for students. Research shows a quality teacher in a classroom is the strongest predictor of student success. OUSD’s strategic plan currently is focused on improving student literacy and teacher quality and diversity.
But some families that have experienced failure over generations, and don’t want to wait any longer for meaningful change, want to better understand and hopefully shape the next three-year contract that they say will affect their kids’ education.