Tag Archives: education

Castlemont High Walkouts to Protest Police Brutality!

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We continue to share reflections and analysis on the recent student protests in the Bay Area. 

The #BlackLivesMatter movement and the movement against police violence has taken on new forms, and has now spread to schools as sites of potential power. Students have held large protests and shutdowns at Mizzou and Berkeley High that have garnered national media attention, but there have  also been smaller struggles that have gained less notoriety but are equally as important for militants to study.

These small movements show us new forms of organization that emerge in response to police murders, how students are coordinating these protests, how local histories influence the forms of struggle that take place, the role of Black leadership, how multi-racial solidarities emerge, how students are pushing the boundaries of what the #BlackLivesMatter movement means, and what the limitations may be. 

Communist militants must grasp these events on their own terms in order to better understand how the student’s rebellious energy can deepen and spread to other sectors of the economy and to broader layers of the class. 

One such event occurred last month, when students at Castlemont High School, in deep East Oakland, held protests and walkouts in response to the police murder of Richard Perkins, Jr. at a sideshowIn order to document the emergent student movement in the Bay Area, we have interviewed a number of students at Castlemont High and we provide our reflections below. Please read, critique and share!

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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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Defend and Transform: Next Steps in the CCSF Struggle

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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.

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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!

Defend and Transform Public Education

As the struggle against austerity at City College of San Francisco heats up, this reflection by an Advance the Struggle militant attempts to spark a discussion on how revolutionaries relate to and broaden the horizons of anti-austerity struggles. It is not enough for us, as we build for resistance to budget cuts, to call for the mere “defense” of public education systems under a crisis-ridden and decadent class society; it is crucial we discuss how a conscious and organized worker/student/community movement can make concrete gains within the institution to begin transforming it into a base of ongoing struggle. Towards this end we put this out there. 

Defend and Transform Public Education

The ACCJC, the accreditation commission pushing for a deep austerity program at City College of San Francisco, placed March 14th as the deadline for the college to “show cause”, i.e. prove why it should not be closed down. If the CCSF officials give in to the Commission’s blackmailing, the budget cuts would be implemented the Fall 2013 semester.

As of now, the forces resisting remain too small to defend the school, much less to mount an offensive and make gains. A large part of CCSF’s constituency is unaware that their school, along with their economic and social aspirations, are dangerously close to being destroyed and gutted by the ruling classes needs for higher profitability. For those who are aware, the prevailing understanding is that the City College system is inefficient, outdated, and bureaucratic, thereby implicitly supporting the ACCJC’s demands for an end to such “nuisances” such as the democratic control professors exercise in electing their chairs, Ethnic Studies courses, faculty salaries, and the (at most) semblance of “shared governance” between faculty/staff, students, and administrators. The Commission seeks to narrow the Mission Statement, increase the amount of administrators, and place extra resources into a reserve pool. The implications are that by investing less in the reproduction of students’ labor-power (many of whom already sell their existing labor-power at low rates in order to get through school), the rate of profit for the capitalist class might be higher; the end to any pretense of “shared governance” aims to destroy any future resistance to these measures. The Commission (ACCJC) is, like the CIA, in the business of fomenting bogus “crises” in public institutions that then justifies their authoritarian control and implementation of steep austerity plans.

The latest event was last Thursday, February 28th. Several hundred people lined up along the campus in support of the teacher’s struggle against wage cuts and lay-offs. Around the same time, the Board of Trustees held an open meeting at a nearby building, which several of us attended. At first, the Board aimed to keep public comment until the very end of their meeting, which was to last several hours and therefore make it impractical for most students and community members to speak out. After heckling from the crowd demanded public comment to be moved to the top of the agenda, folks lined up and spoke out against the Board’s plan to to acquiesce to the ACCJC’s demands. Some begged the Board for mercy while others addressed the crowd and called out the Board as the sell outs and agents of austerity that they are. The most radical speeches made it clear that an alternative existed to the budget cuts and that it’d take a serious and militant confrontation with the system to make it into a reality.

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A massive amount of outreach needs to be done to win over a lot more people to the struggle. Teach-ins are being organized around the different campuses throughout these next two weeks. Our analysis needs to situate this struggle in the context of a global capitalist onslaught on proletarian living conditions and political organization, coupled with the many inspiring and insightful examples of resistance to this process, such as the student strike in Puerto Rico, Chile, Quebec, Bay Area 2009/10 and 1968, etc. Basically, we need a class war analysis that can polarize students, teachers, workers, and community members around common interests in both fighting this round of austerity, and turning the attack against us into an attack against the racist, sexist, capitalist system. If the small but emerging movement continues along the lines of pandering to the Board of Trustees or City Hall under the illusion that we are on the side same, we will not be able to harness the direct and militant political activity that emerges when people understand the actual causes of the problem and who their real friends and enemies are.

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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.