Ron Egging Them On
During the education debate last week, Lobbyist Dellums did not provide workable answers to Oakland's problems. Twice he answered a question by characterizing the issue as a "major national scandal." His calls to repeal No Child Left Behind and have national universal health care won applause, but not votes. I really disliked his call to abolish mandatory testing, as opposed to Ignacio de la Fuente's insistence that we help students pass, saying "They will fail now or fail later." Ron Dellums also strongly implied that he disapproved of competitive college admissions.
I'm really up on the potential of the Peralta Community College system, and I'm not a hater so I don't oppose Elihu Harris being chancellor, but the former mayor has given Dellums free airtime (a clear violation of campaign laws), and, in return, Ron Dellums suggested that Peralta create a massive new bureaucracy to take the guardians' place for troubled teens. While not as frightening as Ron Oz's lifelong (electronic?) tracking system that would follow both children and adults, saying that the government should take parents' responsibilities fell flat in the packed auditoria.
Aside from having absolutely no ideas for fixing our schools beyond fixing deep national problems and begging the federal government for money (as if Bush is going to help him!), basically encouraged a teacher strike. He used his introduction to defend even the most outrageous of the teachers' demands (to abolish all involuntary transfers, on top of not being able to be dismissed) and demand local control back. Obviously paying the teachers and paying back our state loan are at loggerheads. But beyond that, his rhetoric very much discouraged compromise and made it harder to find a solution before tomorrow's strike.
I attended the Oakland public schools in the '80s, and I am proud of the excellent education I received there (and throughout my 12 years of public schooling). But the teachers' strike was very upsetting and damaging. It played a major part in parents' decision to leave Oakland for the suburbs, like so many other middle-class families, which we came to regret (of course!). Our family didn't return until I was firmly ensconced in a neighboring city's highschool and they could afford my siblings' private tuition. I am very disappointed that my siblings didn't get a public education, and knowing how smart and creative they are, I think that their neighbors missed out by not having them in their classes. It is very important that we lure middle-class parents back into the public system, and keep them in Oakland when their kids are highschool-aged.
One of the ways wealthier Oaklanders can be brought back into the public system is through innovative, specialized charter schools, such as the wonderful Oakland School for the Arts (who are paying to restore part of the Fox Theater) and many other schools. Another part is to keep the confidence of wealthier parents that their child's often-excellent elementary school will be followed by a good secondary education. A full-fledged strike will be a black eye on Oakland for years to come. It of course would hurt the kids terribly, but also send exactly the wrong message to parents who are looking at schooling options.
Yesterday, Ignacio de la Fuente had a press conference wherein he asked that the teachers and district lock themselves in a room and get a deal done before a possible strike. I'm not here to blame one side or the other (although I do blame the teachers, I'm not going to go into that), but a compromise needs to be reached, and a strike must be averted. Council President de la Fuente called on his opponents to join him in asking for a compromise and averting a strike. Instead, Ron Dellums appearted at a teachers' rally and continued to take the teachers' side, ignoring the potential for last-minute negotiations and discouraging compromise.
A real strike is much more likely because of Dellums's one-sided grandstanding and pandering. I feel really awful for the pupils of the Oakland schools - I was here for the 1986 strike. Mr. Dellums was not.
PS: I wrote this yesterday. I am thrilled that a last-minute compromise may have been reached. That is no thanks to Ron Dellums.