By Selim Jones
On Saturday, Jan. 12, over a thousand people from over ten school districts, including Fremont, Mountain View and Dublin, came out to Oakland to show support and solidarity for public schools. Many people wore red, signifying they stood with the teachers in their fight for better pay, lower class sizes, and less money being taken from public schools to be given to charter schools.
The rally started at Lake Merritt Amphitheater, where people met up and then, holding pro-teacher signs, began their march towards city hall, where they gathered to give speeches and protest.
“I’m here to support teachers, especially Roots teachers, who are phenomenal,” said Jane Lee, an instructional coach at Roots International Academy, a small public middle school in East Oakland that was at risk of being shut down by OUSD. “They deserve better.”
A little over two weeks later, amid angry teachers, parents and students, the Oakland Unified School District voted 6-1 to close Roots International Academy. According to a video sent out by OUSD superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Roots will close next fall and students will be given top priority when transferred to nearby schools.
While this rally was held in Oakland, a town that has its fair share of teacher struggles, the rally was focused on a broader picture. Many came out to show their support for Los Angeles teachers, who went on a city-wide strike on Monday, Jan. 14th, their first walkout in 30 years.
LA has the largest teacher union in California, serving more students than there are people in Oakland, and their strike comes in a year that teacher strikes have swept the nation, including strikes in West Virginia and Arizona, among others.
“I’m concerned about the state of all public schools, whether they’re in Oakland or LA,” said Baba Weusijana, a public school parent and socialist, “I stand in solidarity with both of them.”
“The whole point of public schools is to take care of all the children’s needs,’’ continued Weusijana. “I hope this rally draws attention to the fact that there’s a lot of corruption going on right now, and a lot of money being syphoned out of the public school system.”
The rally was not only an event for people to gripe about public school’s troubles and protest for better conditions. For many, the rally was an empowering moment that built off of the Dec. walkout.
“We were all over the news. Even the national news,” said Miles Murray, Oakland High’s union representative. “We felt pretty badass.”
While as of this reporting, OUSD teachers have only partaken in one-day walkouts, that might not be the case for much longer; Oakland teachers plan to vote on a strike towards the end of January, with the current prediction of many teachers being the vote will turn out in the strike’s favor. For Oakland teachers, the possibility of a strike signifies that they’ve had enough.
“It’s most unfortunate that it’s come to this, because I know it’s a last resort,” said Shannon Erby, a Berkeley High teacher, “considering how much it affects teachers, students, and parents. It shows that the situation really is dire.”