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A message of support and thankfulness from the teachers of Oakland to the teachers of São Paulo.

Greetings from Oakland, California! It is exciting to see the teacher strike wave becoming an international fight. We here in Oakland have been energized by the strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, and especially Los Angeles, where the teachers had not struck for 30 years, and overwhelmingly won both their demands and many other concessions from the district through powerful, concerted efforts that shut down the schools.

Los Angeles teachers’ struggle began over four years ago, when it was discovered that LA billionaire Eli Broad had concocted a secret plan to replace half of the district’s 900 schools with charter schools. Charters are publicly funded but privately run, and are used as a tool in the United States to starve actual public schools of funds and further the eventual goal of privatizing the education system. LA’s victory was so massive that their school board, which is bought and sold by charter school advocates, was forced to pass a moratorium on new charter schools in the city.

Now, in Oakland, we are facing similar challenges. Over a third of Oakland students are already in charter schools, and our school board elections were also influenced by huge amounts of funding from pro-charter organizations. Our union, the Oakland Education Association, has demanded more resources for students: we employ only one nurse per 700 students, one counselor per 1,300 students, and only a single credentialed librarian for the entire district. We’ve also demanded a reduction in our class sizes. Classes can currently exceed 30 students, even in elementary school, with many of those students requiring extra social, emotional, educational, or English language-learning support that a lone teacher could never provide. Because 20% of Oakland teachers leave the district each year, many of us are new teachers who struggle to stay afloat. These conditions, coupled with the fact that the Bay Area of California is one of the most expensive places to live in the world, makes the decision to become or remain the lowest-paid teachers in the area an increasingly difficult one.

In return, the district has insisted that there is no money in the budget for any of these improvements, at the same moment that they pay for outside consultants and vendors at three times the county average and pay administrative staff well over the state average. They responded to our demands with an offer of what amounted to a pay cut and no reduction in class sizes. Furthermore,the school board recently voted to close a small school in east Oakland that primarily serves students of color, which they undoubtedly plan to replace with a charter school as they have repeatedly done in the past.

Reading the São Paulo teachers’ motivations for striking reinforces the universality of the struggle against private, corporate interests that are attempting to commodify a universal right. Across the world, capitalists are vying to turn a system that should be free and empowering to everyone into an engine of profit. The threat against public education is a global one. We are fighting the same fight. Oakland stands in solidarity with São Paulo!

A new page to support and build new alternatives in Latin America and the world, defending the power of the workers and people against the 1% of the rich and privileged, and a society without exploitation.

Writing office

  • Pedro Fuentes
  • Bernardo Corrêa
  • Charles Rosa
  • Clara Baeder