2010-2011 News — 01 April 2011

Jobs, course offerings, and class size caps all on the chopping block
By Destiny Stewart

Oakland High teachers, students, and community members rally in front of school on Mar. 15. Credit: Lisa Lac

Students and staff at Oakland High held signs, protested budget cuts, and demanded that the government not take education in California so lightly.

In Oakland, according to a resolution approved by Oakland’s Board of Education, 538 teachers have received pink slips and Oakland High School alone is required to cut $1 million from its school budget for next year. The 2012 school year is likely to have more students per class; meanwhile, college tuition just this year rose by 35.5%, according to the Education section of MSNBC.com.

Oakland High students are concerned because every administrator and approximately 20 teachers at the school received pink slips. However, the financial situation won’t be certain until the next election.

“Until voters vote, we don’t know what it means,” said OHS principal Alicia Romero. “We have to cut resources from every area. Teachers, security, extra services; everything is being affected. Counselors . Everything that has to do with education is being cut. It’s a huge challenge. [It’s] horrific. Schools have to overcome [the budget crisis.]”

According to Romero, the March 15 letters do not automatically mean that teachers are laid off. They are an advisory to let teachers prepare for the possibility of a layoff. On May 15, another round of letters will inform teachers whether their layoff notice has been rescinded, meaning canceled, or whether they will no longer have a job.

If the teachers are cut, students will have less support from staff, and class sizes will have to be larger. Many classes already exceed their maximum of 32 students. Administrators questioned how the school will make ends meet.

“We’re still going to need the teachers we already have,” said Romero. “The classrooms and courses are needed in order for students to graduate.”

Classes at risk of being cut include JROTC, Journalism, Psychology, Yearbook,  French language and many others as well.

This year, Mar. 2 was known as California’s Day of Action because it was a day where students and educators took a stand to declare that education should be one of California’s top priorities.

“This protest means a lot; it’s our future that is on the line,” said senior Jamaya Clay on Mar. 2. ”I might not get into the university of my choice because of these cuts.”

It will not only be hard for students to get into college; it also be hard for teachers and administrators who are affected by the cuts.

Students agreed with Romero that it’s inequitable that teachers and administrators are on the verge of being laid off.

“It’s not fair for the teachers because they will lose their job even though they have done so much for their students,” said junior Ngoc Hoang. “They took this job because they care, [but] now they might have to work elsewhere. I hope the older teachers don’t leave because they’re the ones that have built relationships with us.”

Math teacher Julia Fernandez in her classroom on Mar. 16, the day after receiving notification of a possible layoff. Credit: Gerquetta Jackson

Students felt that in order for their voices to be heard, a protest was entirely necessary. “It was important to protest because if we don’t take a stand, who else will?” asked junior Tiago Johnson. “Education should always come first. Without education we won’t be able to get jobs.”

Students shared the opinion that the government spending more money on prisons than education is unfair. “Money on prisons?” asked senior Tamara Edmond. “Are you serious? We need our education, we’re trying to better ourselves.”

When asked if she would be returning to Oakland High next year, Romero said, “I’d better be! I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is where I want to work. If I have to work somewhere else, I won’t be working. This is my school.”

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