OUSD Board Looks at Moratorium on School Closures

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday June 01, 2007

An Oakland School Board member has introduced a resolution calling for a moratorium on Oakland public school closures while the state remains in charge of the Oakland Unified School District. 

The call came as Oakland education officials said that 42 of Oakland’s 98 public schools have been closed for some period of time during the four years of the state takeover, and as Assemblymember Sandré Swanson’s AB45 return-to-local-school-control bill is passing through its second State Assembly committee. 

Boardmember Christopher Dobbins introduced the closure moratorium resolution at Wednesday night’s board meeting on behalf of the Oakland-based Education Not Incarceration organization. 

At the request of boardmember Noel Gallo, who seconded Dobbins’ motion, discussion of the resolution will also include a broader look at OUSD’s current academic, financial, and enrollment situation. 

Meanwhile, a coalition of Oakland organizations and leaders is holding a public hearing on Oakland schools today (Friday), 4-6:30 p.m. at the OUSD administration building on 2nd Avenue, to talk about school closures, local control, charter- and new-school development, and other issues. 

The hearing was organized by the Ad Hoc Committee to Restore Local Control/Governance to the Oakland Public Schools, and sponsors include the Oakland Education Association, Education Not Incarceration, ACORN, state assemblymembers Sandré Swanson and Loni Hancock, county supervisors Keith Carson and Nate Miley, and several school board members  

The Dobbins Education Not Incarceration school closure moratorium resolution charges that recent decisions to close Oakland public schools “have been made in opposition to the democratically elected Oakland Mayor and without oversight of the democratically elected school board,” and says that “schools targeted for closure since the state takeover have been primarily in low-income predominantly African-American and Latino communities, who are already being under-served by California’s schools.” 

Under state takeover, OUSD state administrator Kimberly Statham will make the decision whether to place the resolution on the next joint board-administrator public meeting on June 13, but board president David Kakishiba said that if Statham refused, the board itself could hold its own meeting to discuss the matter. 

Several speakers came to the microphone at Wednesday’s meeting to support the resolution. 

Cassandra Martin, an OUSD parent volunteer and the parent of a Havenscourt Middle School student, said “I am saddened to see so many school closures in Oakland. It’s killing me. As a parent, I’m appalled. These kids have enough to go through. For some of them, the schools function as their second homes.” 

And Jonah Zern, an organizer with Education Not Incarceration, asked for Statham’s support for the resolution, saying that “the community knows best what to do with our own children.” 

In introducing the resolution, Dobbins, who was elected to the board last November, said that “as a school board, we can’t say that we would never close schools. But we would only do so by having a broader discussion that included consultation with the community.” 

And Gallo, in asking that the issue be broadened, said that “we need to have a serious discussion on why these closures may be necessary. We are facing lowering enrollment. The parcel tax renewal is going to be coming up next year. We’re going to have to pay for police services. We can’t balance our budget now. We’re still operating on borrowed money for the state. How are we going to pay for everything? The discussion has to be greater than just the closure of schools.”