Tag Archives: budget cuts

Reflections on last years Oakland high school walkout

All of us have been paying close attention to development of black insurgency over the past few years.  The power of street protests, new black activist groups, and recent anti-racist demands at universities highlight the direction that the movement’s energy is going.  Further, the recent spread of pro black, anti-racist demands at numerous universities following the Mizzou protests  demonstrate one possible way in which the movement is cohering: through the development of common demands on college campuses.

The Berkeley High School walkout that went down last week shows us that high schools have tremendous potential in also becoming sites of anti-racist and black resistance.  In the spirit of exploring the dynamics of insurgent energy spilling over and taking new forms on high school and college campuses, we present to you some reflections on a high school walkout that happened a year ago in Oakland.  

 

While this action is no longer in the recent memory of activists, the way in which students self-organized and developed a set of demands on their specific institution – the Oakland Unified School District – presents an interesting moment that preceded this recent uprising on campuses.  We hope that it can contribute to the ongoing discussions on strategy that we’re all taking part in.  

 

November and December of 2014 in Oakland
Protesters block Interstate 580 in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Protesters block Interstate 580 in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Oakland was an exciting place to be, again, during the hot winter weeks of late November and early December 2014.  Protests raged nightly, and so many of us found ourselves marching together through the streets, evading cops, and blocking freeways and BART stations wherever was possible.  Walking down Broadway, turning right on 7th street and heading toward the West Oakland BART station.  Stopping midway and having debates about which direction to go – toward 980?  Back toward the 880?  Piedmont?  The chaotic discussions we had brought that familiar feeling of ungovernability back to our lives.  Our militant and disorderly activities were creative and generative to the extent that we got practice in challenging the infrastructure of Bay Area capitalism, attempting to block flows of traffic in ways that at least felt like we were disrupting flows of capital.  Celebrating militancy is important, but perhaps more important is pointing out some of the limitations of our courageous actions.  

There are three key limits that we want to highlight here.  

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Solidarity with the CUNY struggle!

Students from the Ad-Hoc Committee protesting war criminal Petreaus.  Photo Credit: NYMag

Students from the Ad-Hoc Committee protesting war criminal Petreaus. Photo Credit: NYMag

We in Advance the Struggle write to express solidarity with the Ad-Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY (City University of New York), including members of the CUNY 6, who were brutally assaulted and arrested for protesting CUNY’s hiring of war criminal David Petraeus, along with the Liberate CUNY Front and the students suspended for defending the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur student and community center.  These comrades have not only exposed and resisted the increasing militarization of educational institutions in New York, but across the US.  As we have seen here in California with the appointment of former director of deportation Janet Napolitano as President of the University of California system, and “anti-terrorism expert” Arthur Tyler as Chancellor of City College of San Francisco, this is a disturbing trend that must be stopped.

The repression faced by our friends and comrades in New York is the same type of repression faced here in California by university students up and down the West Coast.  From Davis to Irvine and back up to Berkeley, students have organized against imperialist occupations in solidarity with Palestinian people, fought deportations, mobilized against fee increases and budget cuts; only to face direct repression by the UCPD, as well as legal attacks by UC administrators for speaking out and taking direct action against the likes of Zionists and many other forces of U.S. imperialism that get co-signed by the University of California system.  All tactics used by the state and administration to silence resistance to these policies.

While ties between the imperialist war machine and American universities is nothing new, the ruling class’ ‘securitization’ of the university is a troubling shift in structure and function highlighting a changing terrain of struggle. ‘Securitization‘ in this sense means both the increased repressiveness of the university through its integration and collaboration with the capitalist state and the increased role of debt and financial markets in the life of the university. In the age of violent austerity that strips state universities of any public or democratic character; students are forced to take out higher loans to finance their education, which the university business managers then sell to Wall Street investors.

This shift in the role of university education highlights a changing terrain of struggle, making it important to defend and reclaim spaces where we can take a break from the grueling demands of competitive and isolating workloads, and as a place where we can form a community of resistance against the university system – which remains part and parcel of capitalist exploitation.

Mass mobilization to defend the Morales/Shakur social center. Photo cred: http://realworldnews.tumblr.com/

Mass mobilization to defend the Morales/Shakur social center. Photo cred: http://realworldnews.tumblr.com/

This resistance must continue and expand at sites of production, reproduction, circulation and in the streets to fight a system that glorifies and hires war criminals, torture apologists and deportation lackeys whose policies have killed, tortured, and destroyed millions of lives throughout the world; the same system forcing austerity cuts that destroy quality affordable public education and other social services for many working class and oppressed peoples.

Therefore, Advance the Struggle expresses full solidarity with our comrades in New York and around the world, who struggle against the advancement of US security and imperial military interests.

Drop all charges against the CUNY 6!

Drop the charges against Taffy and Khalil!

Petraeus and Napolitano off our campuses now!

Liberate CUNY and all campuses!

For united proletarian action against capitalism and imperialism!

Defend and Transform: Next Steps in the CCSF Struggle

ccsf

Two days ago the battle to stop the destruction of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) took another step forward when a protest of 300 students and supporters of CCSF gathered in downtown San Francisco.  The two principal demands of the movement at this point are for the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, to immediately intervene to stop all sanctions against CCSF by the ACCJC, and to immediately fire the “Special Trustee” dictator Bob Agrella who has been specifically appointed by the ACCJC to carry out their plan for the destruction of CCSF’s existing programs through budget cuts and privatization. They’ve undermined the democratic decision-making power CCSF professors had in running their departments and determining their curriculum, along with the community learning aspect that remains deeply rooted in San Francisco’s working-class culture, all in order to “reform” the school along the corporate, privatized education model: bloated administrative bureaucracies, underpaid and overworked teachers with weak or non-functional unions, a reduced and underpaid staff, and a severely downsized student body with the limited options of a streamlined junior college-type transmission belt to four-year universities for those who can afford the debt, or technical programs for the development of an elite managerial class separated and above the working-class people CCSF still serves. For proletarian communities of color in San Francisco, this is a gutsy frontal attack. If not resisted, it will relegate tens of thousands of youth to low-wage service sector jobs without the chance of social advance, such as fast-food chains; it will exacerbate unemployment and speed-up the gentrification process that has so drastically changed San Francisco from a hub of multi-national/racial working-class neighborhoods to the next chic destination for wealthy Silicon Valley professionals in the high-tech industry.

As of today, we’ve found out that the lawyer for the city of San Francisco, Dennis Herrera, has initiated legal proceedings against the ACCJC for breaking federal regulations and having conflicts of interest, and against the Board of Governors that oversees California’s community colleges because it has ceded its legal authority over standards and funding in relation to community colleges to the ACCJC, a private body.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the City’s announcement of this lawsuit comes a day after the protest and sit-in that we organized. We should continue to demand that the local state, and the mayor in particular, intervene against the attack on CCSF;  this lawsuit and any possible actions on the part of the mayor are are possible only due to the self-organization of the students, teachers, and staff of CCSF. Now that the ACCJC is beginning to be delegitimized largely due to organized resistance, we are in a position to seize the momentum and expand the movement to put a definite end to the ACCJC’s reign of terror and take the struggle forward to expanding and improving the community college in the interests of the Bay Area’s exploited and oppressed.

Currently, the AFT 2121 leadership and a core of active teachers have expressed sympathy for a strike. The staff union leaders from SEIU 1021 have played a reactionary role by acquiescing to the ACCJC’s demands in hopes that teachers, who are actively fighting the ACCJC, receive the brunt of the attack while staff make it through this process unscathed. Rank-and-file staff have remained under the radar as they are unsure of the situation and know that their jobs are the most dispensable and likely to be cut.  As of now, the major strategic orientation of the movement should be the activation of the student body; it is a sleeping giant. However, it is critical we begin to build links with the two other key sectors of the proletariat in education, the teachers and staff. While one important step is for teachers and staff to self-organize within but independently of their union, we need a concrete plan to reach out to these sectors as students to build the links and lay the basis for a unified class struggle that takes up the demands of all three.  It is the social force of those who use the university that can be the backbone of the fight not only defend CCSF against its current round of attacks, but to be the organized body that can reconstruct and transform the CCSF we know now – a college that since the recession in 2008 has faced a total of $809 million in budget cuts, especially to lifelong learning and community programs that are not directly transferable to a four-year university or a technical profession, such as: childcare, ethnic studies, programs for ex-cons, seniors, and immigrants and help change it into the people’s college that we want it to be.

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2012-2013 Classroom Struggle Review and Reflection

We picked up this end of the year reflection from our friends in Classroom Struggle. Advance the Struggle appreciates the hard work these warriors for public education have put in since their inception during Occupy Oakland.  As the attacks on public schools continue nationwide we feel their work continues to be the most inspiring in this extremely important sector of the working class.  CS Logo2

Friday June 14th, 2013 was the last official day of school in Oakland Unified School District, the last official day for students was Thursday the 13th.

Its always good to see the delighted looks on the faces of teachers and students as they ready their summer plans, and some don caps and gowns to celebrate the pinnacle of K-12 education, also known as high school graduation. Congrats to all of the class of 2013!

Militants in Classroom Struggle (CS) also look forward to summer, as it gives us a chance to review and reflect on the successes and failures of the school year and touch up our strategy for the coming school year (2013-2014).  

Last year at this time, we were preparing to occupy Lakeview Elementary School in protest of the closure of five elementary schools serving primarily black and latino families. This year the district did not close any schools. But they did try to eliminate the rest of the already decimated adult education/GED programs throughout the district. CS is thrilled to report that the district decided to save these programs rather than eliminate them (more on that below including the role CS played in support of the students and teachers of that program).

We continued publishing our newsletter – also called Classroom Struggle (formerly Education for the 99%) – putting out many high quality articles meant to move teachers in a more radical direction with the intent to fight against the worst of Tony Smith and the Oakland School Board not to mention austerity funding from the feds. and Sacramento. We continue fine tuning the newsletter by distributing it across the East Bay far and wide, and make every effort to gather feedback from all of our readership. The cover and back cover art is the work of current public school students and teachers, and we will feature a new header for each new issue.  The latest is linked here:

http://education4the99.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/5th-newsletter-go-critique-webview2.pdf  

It includes: a critique of the report on “teacher quality” published by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and heavily endorsed by GO (Great Oakland Public Schools), a solidarity letter for our teacher comrades in Mexico currently fighting against similar neo-liberal assaults on public education we’re fighting in the U.S., testimony of a public school custodian, a report on the adult education fight, and a update on the trauma of school closures from a parent of of an affected student. Please check it out.  

We began making interventions in the Oakland Education Association (OEA) as site representatives. Passing motions in support of Adult Education students & teachers along with Mexican teachers fighting neo-liberalism. Our goal was to push the union to act above and beyond the narrow interests of teacher unionism. We got motions passed for OEA to help us build for two forums we organized. The first provided a report/analysis on the current funding issues in OUSD, the second gave perspective on the importance and challenges involved with building a base of parents, teachers/school workers and students, it featured a founding member of Chicago CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators). The teachers responsible for organizing widespread support for the fall 2012 CTU strike. We are still very critical of current stance of OEA’s leadership, but have seen the rep. council meetings heading in a more critical direction and featuring very promising debates. Continue reading

Are we gonna let the ACCJC and the State punk us? Hell no!

Below is text and a link to a flier – written by an AS member – that will be circulated at tomorrow’s (3/14/13) CCSF anti-austerity rally.  The rally will converge on Civic Center, in front of San Francisco City Hall at 4pm.  For more information see here.  This continues our coverage of the ongoing struggle at CCSF.  Please join the discussion and check back for more updates!

Click for full PDF version in English.

Click for full PDF version in English.

ascsf1spanish

Click for full PDF version in Spanish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t the Accreditation Threat Because of Problems with CCSF?

No, the accreditation threat is a very political attempt to force major negative changes to this college, and ultimately every other one in CA and the USA.  CCSF has a lot of problems, but none of them will be solved by cutting student services, programs, class sections and laying off staff and professors.  But that’s the main requirement of the accreditation group: to pull money out of all of these central services of the college, and put it into more administrators and a savings fund! (check out saveccsf.org for more details)

Why Would the Accreditation People Want to Hurt CCSF?

Because they have a vision of education in the USA that’s about building a profitable industry where people go into heavy debt, instead of a society that shares the costs of education.  In the economic system we live with, capitalism, there’s always rich people with extra money looking for opportunities to make some extra profit. The big one they have now is that a lot of government services are being cut, to pay for all the money that government gave to other rich investors when their gambling went bad in 2008.

Is this just happening at CCSF?

No! It’s happening worldwide (although that means we have a lot of potential allies!)  All over the world, governments have responded to the financial crisis with a political choice to make working-class people pay.  Instead of taxing the rich, or taking over the failing banks and investment funds, governments have massively drained the public sector, cutting spending on anything that benefits regular people (but never cut the funding for their wars or prisons!)

In the US, a major part of this plan to cut social services, like education, both k-12 and college, which has all kinds of negative effects: less financial aid, less classes, higher fees, and lower quality education in general.  Basically people are getting shut out, mostly working-class people of color.

No more cuts! Restore and expand all services for teachers, workers, and students! 

To the ACCJC, Board of Trustees, and the State: Get your dirty hands out of City College! We will not allow you to destroy it! The school belongs to the students and workers, those who use it! 

Power to the People!

Classroom Struggle Flier: Not One Cut!

OUSD Cuts Flier

Click on image to see full English version.

Click here for Spanish version.

We received the following leaflet from a group of Oakland educators called Classroom Struggle.  The leaflet outlines some information on a recent round of austerity in the Oakland Unified School District of 7.6million dollars.  Prominent among this round of cuts is the entire Adult Education program (which has been severely gutted in the past 3 years, going from $14million to $1million since 2010) and the entire GED program that OUSD offers.  There is a school board meeting this Wednesday where parents, adult ed teachers, classroom teachers in the OEA, and students will come to speak out against this round of cuts, as well as the entire austerity regime which the OUSD school board and Superintendent Tony Smith have been pushing for years.  Just last year, 5 elementary schools were set to be shut down.  On November 19th 2011, at the height of Occupy Oakland, a mass march of thousands helped politicize the issue of school closures, and was followed months later in June 2012 by an occupation of Lakeview elementary school.  Though the schools were eventually closed, the movement against austerity took a step further in politicizing people’s understanding of the cutbacks, and denouncing the role of Tony Smith, a superintendent often touted as being down with the people due to his name dropping of critical race theorists and other social justice related themes.  The struggle that may unfold against this round of austerity has this recent history as its jumping off point, but it will take ongoing organizing of parents, teachers, students, and other school workers at the workplace and community level to really push back on what OUSD is attempting to push down on working class communities of color in Oakland.  This flyer is one artifact of the unfolding organizing happening in real time that is offerred for your analysis and distribution.

Students, faculty, and community members occupy City College of San Francisco!

On Thursday, February 21st, City College of San Francisco students, faculty, and community folks began a day of action against the privatization of their school at the main Ocean campus by rallying, holding signs, and listening to speakers. This comes after weeks of organizing and outreach work by the SaveCCSF coalition which sprung up to rally students against this major attack. After the rally, folks marched into the Chancellor’s building to meet with the Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman and present their demands, just as she promised. To no one’s surprise, she was nowhere to be found. In addition to this, Board of Trustees representatives and lackeys waited at the stairs next to police officers to prevent students from climbing upstairs to confront the institution’s ruling class. This is because William Walker, the Board of Trustees Student Representative, snitched to the police about the plans to occupy the building, even after the student coalition allowed him in their meeting a few days before and called for the plans to remain confidential. Walker remained at the occupation throughout the night, sitting with the other admin henchmen and pigs,  acting like he’s on our side during the occupationists’ discussions by promising our voices would be heard during Board meetings if we emailed him.

Regardless, a core of about 20 students ended up gathering blankets, sleeping bags, and food to remain in the building throughout the night and into the morning. Different media outlets showed up to interview occupiers and police officers. Supporters arrived with pins, food, and other support materials. Several times, occupiers made a circle to discuss their feelings about the actions, talk about why they loved CCSF and joined the struggle, and share anecdotes about their history in this institution. In the intervals, music played, students danced and sang, and debated political approaches to the developing struggle.

The next major event is scheduled for a rally at the SF City Hall on March 14th where SaveCCSF will present its demands to politicians. The forces resisting austerity against CCSF remain very small and  much work needs to be done to build that support by winning over students, faculty, campus workers, and community members. In the weeks prior to rally at City Hall, teach-ins and other forms of outreach are scheduled in order to counter the ideological war the San Francisco Chronicle and the local bourgeoisie wage against the movement, claiming that something is fundamentally wrong with CCSF that requires an accreditation commission to “fix it” by gutting its programs, department, teacher and campus worker pensions and positions, and busting its unions.

The issue for revolutionaries , however,  is not simply how we numerically increase an anti-austerity movement, as important as that is. We need to develop a politic that seeks to expose the reactionaries allied with the privatizers, administrators, and ruling class servants and align school workers, students, and supporters with a militant, uncompromising line when it comes to defending CCSF. Our analysis needs to identify the structural and historical causes of this capitalist attack, and why only unified student and worker (including teacher!) unity can win against these attacks and make gains that increase the scope and resources for CCSF, in addition to implementing measures for them to increase their democratic control over the running of the school.