Saving Oakland Students

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Parents angry at a proposal to merger or close some Oakland schools are disrupting school board meetings to make their point. Lakisha Young says their demands are out of focus.

Let’s start with some facts:

* The Earth is round.

* The sky is blue.

* Oakland schools are in deficit.

Oakland schools are coming to grips with a budget deficit they can’t solve without closing, merging or consolidating some schools. That means tough decisions are coming.

We’ve had closures before. Most of the time, these tough decisions impact the most vulnerable members of our community - black and brown families. Notice you don’t hear much when that happens - public comment at board meetings starts late into the night. No one is out shutting down a school year’s worth of board meetings because our kids are falling behind in failing schools and are unprepared for college or career.

But the second these tough decisions impact a predominantly white school, that’s exactly what happens. And then you get a group of parents jumping onto the dais at a school board meeting.

You know what I wanted to say to parents trying to shut down meetings week after week?

A school merger is not the worst thing that can happen to your kids. The worst thing that can happen to your kids is a failing school.

And that is the reality our families face every day. Closures and mergers are definitely hard, but sending your kids to failing schools is even worse.

We need to talk less about saving schools in Oakland, and more about saving students in Oakland. Our focus needs to be on getting more kids into quality schools – a reality that it painfully far away right now.

The path forward is clear. If families continue to paralyze the board every time it has to act, if we can’t figure our way out of this budget mess, the state will take over our schools and Sacramento will make those hard decisions for us.

I want Oakland families to understand the facts, and to support the decisions that need to be made so all of us have a shot at quality.

With a Perspective, I’m Lakisha Young.

Lakisha Young is founder and director of a parent-led and run group working to guarantee quality schools to underserved communities.