Time to End the Strike

My statement of support for our teachers:
Dear Oakland School Communities,
Since the strike began, I’ve been asked where I stand by countless residents of District 6 and Oakland.  The answer is I stand with Oakland students, parents and educators.  I share the deep feeling of urgency about improving pay that is completely insufficient given what it costs to live in the Bay Area, and our students’ needs for a stable teacher workforce. 
I have spent the last two years studying our budget. Despite my fears of another state takeover, I believe we can do more to reprioritize our spending.  I support our Oakland teachers’ reasonable demands to reduce class sizes and ensure our teachers a living wage.  It is time we end this strike and bring our teachers and students back to our classrooms.
I remain committed to budgeting responsibly and to seeking more adequate state and federal funding for our schools.  But responsible budgeting must also mean grasping all of the flexibility possible from our existing resources.  I agree with OEA that our budget structure therefore needs to shift away from overspending on administrative costs and outside contracts and consultants. I believe re-working our current budget from that perspective is critical in reaching an agreement with OEA.  I will therefore support a budget restructuring that puts students and their educators first.
It is important to state, the school closures and consolidations called for in Board Policy 6006 have so far been implemented with insufficient community engagement or feedback.  That was a mistake.  One of my key goals as a Board Director has been to expand democratic and participatory engagement in our schools.  We missed the mark. 
I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Oakland community to build more engagement around future choices in our district and support a pause on additional school closures until that happens. Although AB 1840 lists school closures as one strategy to reach fiscal sustainability, it is not required. We need to be more creative.
The support of our entire Oakland community in fighting for Oakland schools has been inspirational. I am grateful that our teachers, principals and community understand that we need to both seek additional resources and better use the resources we have, so that California is not in the bottom five states for per-student funding.
I plan to work together with OEA and other community organizations to win reform of Prop 13 next year, so that we can better staff our schools and better compensate our teachers.
There is no question we face challenges ahead.  For my part, I will do everything I can do to support OUSD meeting our community’s reasonable demands.
Shanthi Gonzales
OUSD School Board Director, District 6

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