Home » City Guide » , , ,

New State Bill May Save Oakland Schools from Closure

Assembly Bill 1912 would give the school district $10 million to buy time, so they don’t have to make a “potentially irreversible” decision
By - posted 2/15/2022 No Comment

By Keith Burbank, Bay City News

School closures in Oakland could be avoided thanks to a bill introduced Wednesday in the state Assembly. Assemblymember Mia Bonta, D-Oakland, introduced Assembly Bill 1912, which doesn’t stop the closure and consolidation plan Oakland school board members voted on Wednesday, but could pave the way for avoiding it. The bill also gives more time for the school district to show that it is solvent financially.

Bonta said her bill gives OUSD “a little grace” so they don’t have to make “potentially irreversible” decisions affecting mainly Black and Hispanic students during the pandemic. Under Bonta’s bill, the school district would have another year to decide whether to consolidate schools.

Oakland teachers argue that the schools now slated for closure this year and next serve mainly Black students and that the school district has a pattern of aiming to close schools in Black and Hispanic communities. The school district is planning this year to close Community Day School and Parker K-8 School, while eliminating grades six to eight at La Escuelita School and merging Rise Community School and New Highland Academy. Next year, the district plans to close Carl Munck Elementary, Brookfield Elementary, Grass Valley Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, and Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy. The district also plans to eliminate grades six to eight at Hillcrest Elementary School, which serves K-8 students now.

The school district’s plan is meant to address an expected budget deficit. “This kind of change is extremely difficult and upsetting to students, staff, and families,” OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel said in a statement. “A stable school can be a second home for many students and the closure of any school is a major disruption.”

Bonta’s bill sends OUSD about $10 million that was in the prior year’s state budget, without an obligation to close or consolidate its schools, as is now required. A spokesman for the school district was not immediately available to say how the district might use the money.

Oakland students, teachers, and residents as well as elected leaders like Bonta, who is running for reelection, and City Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao, who’s running for mayor, oppose closing the schools.

Thousands listened last week on Tuesday night into Wednesday to public comment and the contentious vote by the school board. Hundreds of people were not allowed to comment before the board voted very early Wednesday morning. “None of these school closures is justified,” school board member Mike Hutchinson said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference about the school board’s decision. Hutchinson voted against the action by the board.

Sam Davis, Aimee Eng, Gary Yee and Shanthi Gonzales voted in favor, Samantha Pal, Clifford Thompson, and Natalie Gallegos Chavez abstained and VanCedric Williams also voted no.

Copyright © 2022 Bay City News, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication, rebroadcast or redistribution without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. Bay City News is a 24/7 news service covering the greater Bay Area.

Related Story: Oakland to Close (Or Merge) Nearly a Dozen Schools by 20232/10/2022