If you passed by the corner of 63rd Street and Herzog in North Oakland today, you might be surprised to know that the latest development for early childhood education in Oakland was actually a positive one. Or that the director of Oakland Parents Together called it “a stunning victory.”
For those who haven’t been watching (or riding) the Childhood Development Center roller-coaster, Superintendent Tony Smith announced Friday that the district had found the money to keep open five out of seven childcare centers slated for closure — at least through the end of December. He also said he would place a credentialed teacher at the Santa Fe CDC in North Oakland, one of the two centers to be closed, for 28 school-age kids who enroll in its before- and after-school program.
Unlike Berkeley Unified, which canceled its full-day preschool program under the threat of state budget cuts (its half-day programs are still running), Oakland is maintaining nearly all of its early childhood services — at the expense of other programs, such as adult education, which was gutted this year to save programs for the district’s littlest kids.
This all goes back the governor’s May budget proposal, which eliminated most funding for state-subsidized preschools and other childcare programs. The state Legislature has yet to pass a budget, and so school districts have had to build their budget assumptions around the governor’s plan (meaning little to no state money for early childhood programs).
Oakland Parents Together, the group that had planned a “People’s Takeover” of several of the shuttered centers by staffing them with volunteers, canceled its protest on Friday (Director Henry Hitz was careful to say the planned takeover was directed at the state government, not at the school district).
BAMN did not. Mark Airgood, a special education teacher at Edna Brewer Middle School and an active member of the civil rights group, was arrested over the weekend during a protest at the Golden Gate CDC, the site of today’s rally, which the district closed today. Airgood and others called for the school district to keep all of the centers open and are planning further actions.
According to district spokesman Troy Flint, Golden Gate served about 22 children in its before- and after-school programs, all but one of them from Berkley Maynard Academy or Civicorps, two nearby charter schools. I wonder if the charter school parents at today’s rally knew that BAMN was patently against charters; its representatives have spoken out against every charter petition or renewal I can remember — quite possibly, Berkley Maynard, itself.
Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones put out a news release Monday saying that the demonstrations at Golden Gate were not union-sanctioned. I believe she did so because Airgood and Tania Kappner, who serve on the union’s board of directors, were involved.
A number of teachers union leaders came to today’s rally, including Craig Gordon, Bob Mandel and Ben Visnick, the former OEA president who is running for school board (District 4) against Gary Yee. Some speakers said it wasn’t enough that the district spared some of the centers from closing; Yvette Felarca, a BAMN leader, described it as a “divide and conquer” strategy. If they stood by while one center or one school closed, she said, others would follow.
Felarca credited community activists for the district’s announcement on Friday. Airgood called for a broad movement in California to save early childhood education — and for people to come to the next school board meeting to protest some more.