Student Reflections on the Strike
Leading up to the Strike
Former OUSD, Still living in Oakland (A student outside of OUSD, but living in Oakland)
To me, quality education is learning things that you’re actually going to need in life such as filing taxes and how to take care of yourself in an unforgiving world. My school does give me a quality education but others aren’t as fortunate. In OUSD, teachers are going on strikes because their wages are so low. Because their wages are so low, they don’t really care if you learn anything as long as you pass the class. I can testify to this because I used to be one of the thousands of students in OUSD. After high school, you’re expected to know how to do these things that were never even a priority for you and no one wants to hold your hand. Sometimes we don’t need hand-holding but a guiding hand on our back. Teachers deserve a living wage AND I deserve a good education.
A Concerned Senior
Teachers should be paid, hard stop. Now that that’s out the way, I’m concerned. I am trying to get to college. I need to complete FAFSA. I need letters of rec. I need good grades in my classes this semester. The colleges do not care about the strike, as deadlines are deadlines. I know that many of my classmates are planning to join the picket line and I may too, but I am really really concerned that this might impact my college aspirations. I am not trying to be selfish but I have worked very hard to get here.
During the Strike
I got work to do
strike on 1st day 2/21
got a C- on my Geo test
my cousin posted the picket lines
strike on 2nd day 2/22
shading portrait diagram due in art
my cousin posted picket lines
strike on its third day 2/25
took a unit test in Hebrew scriptures and passed
picket lines are broadcasted
strike on its 4th day 2/26
had a presentation of much ado about nothing in English
strike on its 5th day 2/27
budget meeting at city hall was canceled
got an A on my meiosis flip book in Bio
got an A on onion root lab
took a quest in bio
strike on its 6th day 2/28
finished plays in English and just chilled
began working on Prezi for BioMed to cure diabetes
strike ends on 3/1
went to school
OUSD reaches tentative agreement
students plan to protest
Student in Full Solidarity
Feb 21, 2019 Strike Day 1
I woke up excited for the strike. I sent my teachers a message of encouragement, solidarity, love, and support last night. Although I couldn’t join in on the Strike with them due to my Yemeni culture not allowing women to do so I still followed up with what’s going on and voiced my support for them. As I head to class at Mills College I see West Oakland Middle School teachers together in the morning taking pictures and ready to meet the rest of the teachers in downtown. I couldn’t hold my smile. I loved what I saw so much. The strike in 1995 that lasted 5 weeks was violent, but this strike is different. Students are more involved with their teachers and no one wants trouble. Parents, students, businesses, and mayor Libby Schaff all showed support in their own ways. Mills college provided space for mills students siblings or children and some restaurants are giving discounts to teachers.
Some may say that this affects the students the most, but I find it so selfish to always think of the students and to think that what we do and fight for our teachers isn’t thinking of the students. As one of my teachers said, “As if choosing to live low income isn’t putting students first.” I’m tired of just talking about the students I need more talk and respect for our teachers. Not the ones OUSD scrapes out and throws at us just to say we have teachers, but the quality ones who left due to unreasonable wages and the ones who still worked with what they got for their students. When you fight for the teachers you fight for the students as well.
In all honesty, with or without the strike students of Oakland Unified School District aren’t learning so at least the strike will lead us to something. Teachers are tired of asking now their rights is what they’re demanding. 12% raise over 3 years, more Nurses, more counselors, and smaller class sizes!!! There is only one aspect of their demands that targets them personally, but the rest is for their students. So again how are they not putting students first? They want to stay in Oakland they don’t want to be forced to join the almost 600 teachers who had to leave the district within one year, because they no longer could afford to live in Oakland. They have every right to demand better salaries, they are people with voices that ring louder than their critics. They are our educators who not only live in Oakland, but live with Oakland.
Feb 22, 2019 Strike 2
The strike continues as does my support for the teachers. I see the teachers walking the streets and gathering in downtown Oakland. People in Oakland whether involved with students education or not are becoming more and more aware of the issues at hand. Issues will no longer be brushed under the rug and will be addressed. Seeing people come together for a cause is the most beautiful thing I can ever see in my life. It is people coming together to end injustice with a fire that continues to burn no matter how much others try to extinguish it. The teachers will no longer be silenced and blackmailed. They continue to have our backs (the students) it’s time we have theirs.
Feb 25, 2019 Strike 3
As I head to class, I can expect to see teachers of West Oakland Middle and Lafayette Elementary together again ready for another strike, it has become a morning routine, while many of my friends aren’t going to school. It would be a waste of time and no the teachers shouldn’t take fault or feel guilty because this is the result that stems from a poor educational system. It is an issue much bigger than the teachers and students and just going with it isn’t going to change it. The teachers aren’t here to play the game but to change the game.
Still Seeking Quality
I’ve been following the strike, there’s a lot going on. Is there a focus at all on improving quality? Like, I know that it is assumed that if the strike is successful, things will get better but is that part of the contract? It is all kind of confusing. My teachers are passionate about this though and I want them to be able to take care of their families.
Student in Full Solidarity Revisited
The strike ended as if it never started, but I will forever be for my teachers. So much community came forth for teachers to get the pay they deserve, for nurses, and counselors workload to decrease and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. However, it lasted a week and should’ve lasted more had there been better communication.
The strike ended with a raise that the teachers won’t even feel and with nurses and counselors workloads remaining the same. While the schools that students deserve remains on the back burner. I don’t want to say that one group is more important than the other because that’s not how I work, there are just forces that turned us against each other and had us using each other without even realizing it.
The Union and OUSD came up with a tentative contract that failed to give teachers a fair pay, help nurses and counselors, and mention student achievement. Such a disappointment to not only the community but to the teachers they “support” as well. The contract was 118 pages and the teachers were only given 24 hours to review it, but that’s okay because the Union gave them a few hours before voting to review it together right? Having the teachers believe that this is the best you can get and you’ll have to settle for less than you deserve is what led the majority to vote yes. The union not being upfront with the teachers and the community from the start that these demands will not be met is deceiving their own people. Don’t feed people beautiful lies, use their genuine fight, and bring their hopes up just to crush them at the end just to push through whatever selfish agenda you played out silently in your mind.
Then we have OUSD slashing out $22 Million dollars that cut off support programs for students and saying the reason is to pay the teachers the raise. It’s just a way to have the community frustration gear towards not only them, but the teachers as well.
Teachers wanted a raise and we’ll have to cut off student support as the cost is the narrative they are pushing. Leaving students scratching their heads, but I thought the teachers were fighting for us? Why would the majority of teachers go through with the vote when they knew this would be the cost?
After the contract was ratified the Union completely ignored all the students’ voices despite their Instagram page being overtaken with their comments. Of course, they’re done using them right?
However, I am more frustrated with those who knew the results of the strike long before it even happened. The teachers won’t get the pay they deserve, students achievement and lack of quality education within OUSD won’t even be addressed, Black and Brown educators retention rate won’t even be considered, and nurses and counselors will just be nice names to chant for. The ones who predicted these results experienced this fight before us or had some powerful critical thoughts about it, but stood silent.
Their argument is that they didn’t want to disrupt the community passion and energy for justice, but it isn’t always about the perpetrators of injustice, but those who just watched them. Intentions might have been genuine, but the impact didn’t reflect.
They could’ve stepped in and talked with the teachers, nurses, counselors, parents, and students to better inform the community. Have them take a step back and assess the situation based on the constructive criticism they had. Could’ve talked about where in this fight does it talk about Black and Brown educators retention rate within OUSD and students quality education? You end your fight with the schools students deserve, but are their voices in this fight really being taken into consideration? All these demands are being made, but where is the how? If they give you a raise what other components will be affected and how do you navigate the issue that the students will most likely be the ones paying the price?
Don’t put the emotions aside, but use it effectively with the facts.
Had those people had those conversations with me when the strike was still in the planning I would’ve done everything I could to share it with the teachers and students. When the strike started I was confused when I read signs saying for the schools’ students deserve because nothing in the demands directly addressed issues students were facing. Issues like students aren’t graduating with their A-G requirements being met, they aren’t receiving quality education in OUSD which is the main reason they leave to charters, or about the rape culture within schools. I was so lost in my passion, energy, and support for the community that I overlooked the fact that students needs weren’t being justly represented in the fight.
For the adults who finally shared their opinions about the strike after it ended I get where they’re coming from. However, this whole idea of let the youth go through this experience and see it for themselves needs to be taken with caution. Keeping your opinions to yourself just for what to end up like your fight did? In the strike of 1996, the results were the same, which is why we’re here in 2019 with the same problems. Since y’all been through it y’all experiences and knowledge could’ve had us asking different questions leading us to different results. The whole point of history is for it to be taken as a means of moving forward. Therefore, I would’ve highly appreciated if the adults who knew how this strike was going to end spoke up and didn’t just stand by and watch history repeat itself. The conversation could’ve made a difference.
If another strike is to come I would need to inform the community and share my experiences. The teachers and students would learn from our struggle about what worked and didn’t so they can develop more effective approaches to the issues at hand. Never stay quiet when what you have to offer has the potential to make a change.