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OP-ED: Assemblymember Mia Bonta Says No to Closing Schools, No to Cutting School Resources

Bonta decries impact of state receivership on Oakland school district

By Mia Bonta

Editor’s note: Education advocates, parents, and elected officials held a press conference last Thursday, Dec. 16, at the Oakland school district headquarters, 1000 Broadway, to oppose what they view as a hostile takeover of Oakland’s public schools by the Alameda County Office of Education and the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT), representing the state. The following is Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s statement at the press conference.

I am proud to represent the children, the educators, the parents, the people of Oakland in this moment. I am here today to stand in solidarity with Oakland’s children, our school district, our Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, our school board — because right now they need us more than ever.

We come together today to be reminded of a common condition that we all have, that our children deserve a public education. Our children deserve an opportunity to be educated with our teachers, our educators, and to know that we stand beside them every single day.

We also come together today more specifically to address the letter of ‘Lack of Going Concern’ received from the Alameda County Office of Education and the required response from this district.

In this response, I want to be crystal clear: I stand with Oakland, I stand with our children, I stand with our teachers, our educators, and I stand with our families.

I stand with our superintendent who has worked every single day through COVID, through a pandemic. I stand with our board who has worked every single day together to be able to provide community help for health, to be able to provide education every single day for our kids.

At a time when their education has been absolutely disseminated and disrupted, teachers, educators, our superintendent, the district and this board have come together to be able to address these problems.

So, what in the world are we doing thinking, right now, in this moment, that we should do anything but support that system that has come together for our children?

I also want to be sure that you all know that I am standing here in my role as a legislator, now, in this moment, and in the spirit of restorative justice, to recognize that the state has had a role in dismantling our system. We have a responsibility right now. It’s been decades of the creation of schools that we haven’t supported at the level that we should have.

It’s been decades of introducing schools that haven’t been fully accountable to all the children of Oakland, and it’s been decades of having to withstand the impact of a state receivership that has been devastating for this school district.

I wasn’t there, (OEA President) Keith (Brown) wasn’t there, but we are now here, stuck with this problem that we need to help solve. And I want to make sure that we all know that no child has ever benefited from adults not telling the whole truth.

No child has ever benefited from adults not presenting the full picture of what needs to happen for our community. Making sure that you’re focused on garnishing the wages of a superintendent’s, while they have been a saving grace, that’s not a solution I can stand for.

Garnishing the wages or threatening the wages of a school board, that is actually not provided enough funds themselves to do their jobs effectively, that’s going to get to a solution that we want.

Focusing on closing schools, disrupting the spaces that keep our children safe and whole, while the whole world around them is telling them it is not a safe time — that’s not going to get us to where we need for our children.

I know that what we do need to do is make an investment. Let’s put it this way. What if we thought about Oakland investing in community schools, investing in mental health practices, investing in paraprofessionals, investing in educators, investing in more head count, to be able to actually serve the needs of our children in this moment right now a this most disruptive moment in our children’s educational history in our country. What [if] that’s the answer?

What [if] we just flipped it? So right now, I know that my role is to make sure that we invest more in this state. And I am committed right now to working at the state level to get relief from this loan that was put on the school district by the state. I am going to work to make sure that we get more resources for OUSD, to make sure that you all, that we all, can do the job we need to do for our children right now.

I want to stand again in solidarity for our children, our teachers, our educators, our superintendents and our school board because they need us now more than ever. Not a slap on the hand, they need us to show up, invest and make sure we are delivering for our children.

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