On Thursday, March 4, Oakland High students and staff joined with others throughout the state to protest cuts to education funding. At 7:30 a.m., members of the O-High community marched and picketed in front of the school despite the numbing cold, chanting “Save our schools” and “No more cuts.”
Cars drove by and honked in support of the more than 50 protestors gathered in front of the school.
“I believe we have to stand up for education,” said Aaron Low, math teacher. “Education is the future for California.”
Budget cuts are already affecting students statewide. Cal State University are denying student admission even when they meet the requirements.
“They didn’t accept me to Cal State Long Beach because of the budget cuts,” said Brittaney Gandy, senior. “They said that I did qualify for admission, but they didn’t have enough money to provide space for me.” Gandy’s friend Thao Tran, also a senior, reported having a similar experience with CSU Long Beach.
Oakland High observed the March 4 Day of Action in many ways.
At 9:30 AM, Principal Alicia Romero announced an earthquake drill. Then Payton Carter spoke over the intercom. He said that the state’s financial situation is a disaster. He explained that, according to the Council of UC Faculty, today the State of California spends more money on prisons than higher education.
Many students and teachers agreed with Mr. Carter’s statements.
“I want the lawmakers to change their priorities,” said Josefina Loeza, Spanish teacher. “Stop building jails and start with education.”
“California is highest in spending money for prisons,” added Steve Bronson, art teacher. “They need to change their priorities to find more money for schools.”
Students expressed concern about the impact of budget cuts on their educations.
“I feel education is an important part of my life,” said Lanaya Lewis, sophomore. “Without education, students won’t make it far in life. I feel like the cuts are unnecessary.”
Teachers in Oakland are protesting local budget cuts as well as state cuts. They have announced a possible strike on April 22.
“We need a fair contract,” said Claire Grimason, French teacher. “The money is there, but it’s not given to us.”
Students may notice the cuts to Oakland school budgets soon.
“I’ve been told by Ms. Romero that Driver’s Ed might be cut next year because of budget cuts downtown,” said Ben Visnick, Social Studies and Driver’s Ed teacher. “Downtown claims they have to do it because of budget cuts.”
Special Education teachers Lisa Payne and Larry Bright said that they want the best for their students and fear that Special Education will suffer from more cuts.
Some students and teachers ended the Day of Action by joining a multi-district rally in San Francisco.
“A lot of people showed up,” said Oakland High sophomore Kao Saelee, who attended the rally in San Francisco. “We even had a fifteen-year-old speak in front of thousands of people.”
Saelee acknowledged that it was not easy to make time for the rally on a school night, but added, “I want a higher chance of going to a good college and having a happy life.”
Lisa Lac, Joanne Lee-Yuen, Judy Lam, Ellen Poon, and Thao Tran contributed to this article.