The Value of the Lakeview Sit-in and Peopleʼs School for Public Education

A Reflection on the significance of the Lakeview sit-in written by an Oakland teacher and a member of the Occupy Oakland Education Committee 

The eighteenth day of the Lakeview Elementary School Sit-in and Peopleʼs School for
Public Education experienced a police raid that successfully shut-down the direct action.
In the early morning, around 4:20am, police – led by Sargeant Barhin Bhatts, the officer
responsible for shooting and killing an unarmed Raheim Brown in January 2011- gave
an initial dispersal order and instructed all those looking to be arrested to sit in a
designated area. Two Lakeview community members chose to be arrested, one – a
parent of Lakeview and the other – an alumni and long time Lakeview supporter. All
other supporters were allowed to gather their belongings and leave the premises
without an arrest.

In response, the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland organized a rally just
outside the front gates at Lakeview and a march to an undisclosed location for 5pm that
evening.

The rally featured parents, teachers, and students who participated in the sit-in & Peopleʼs School. The program was a combination of calling out and shaming Tony Smith and the School Board for shutting down such a positive action, and also a call for people to get involved in the organizing against the austerity inspired policies of the Oakland Unified School District.

There was a militant energy in the air coupled with smoke from dried sage provided by
an indigenous elder supportive of the action. A long time Adult-Education teacher and
veteran education activist credited our action with swaying the School Board to vote
against a proposed 4 million dollar cut to Special Education. He made the point that this
marked the first time in three years that the board voted against Tony Smith and felt this
to be a contributing factor in shutting down our efforts. Three candidates for the
upcoming school board elections called on the crowd to support their campaigns to bring about a much needed change for Oaklandʼs Public Schools. Four students from the Peopleʼs School for Public Education called for an end to the police presence and for the people to continue using the building for its intended purpose – public education. More on this point later in the post. The student speeches were very inspiring and were met with loud cheering and applause. An education committee organizer wrapped up the rally with a call-out for everyone to continue actively supporting these types of actions.

After the last speaker, a recently fired OUSD teacher announced there would be a student-led march to Tony Smithʼs house to confront him face-to-face and let his entire neighborhood know just who their neighbor is and what heʼs all about. The march was filled with militant chants in favor of “education not incarceration” along with music provided by the Occupy Oakland sound team. Upon arriving to Tonyʼs house there were calls for him to “reopen or resign” and a continuation of the rally started back at Lakeview. One of the students from the Peopleʼs School called on Supt. Smith to show his face. Despite him either not being there or else hiding behind the walls of his bourgeois home, it was nonetheless positive to see many of his neighbors outside their homes and supportive of our presence in that neighborhood. All in all it was a vibrant first volley in response to the police raid on the Lakeview Sit-in.

Now back to the political nature of this action and the reason why the sit-in was an
extremely important step for the working class , i.e – the use of the building. The UseValue of a commodity is defined as the qualitative aspect of value as opposed to
exchange-value which denotes the quantitative aspect of value. The parents,
teachers, and students reopened the building, a commodity, for its use-value. The
Peopleʼs School for Public Education was holding social justice classes. Members of the
education committee were building a peopleʼs library and were to planning to call it La
Casita II (in honor of the parents who led a successful occupation to keep open a field house library on the grounds of Whittier Elementary on Chicagoʼs south side.) The
grounds around the school were being used for lessons in gardening, drumming, sports,
etc. etc. On Sunday July 1st the building was opened up to the wider Oakland
community. The education committee hosted a bbq/potluck followed by a movie
screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman . All these were
arguably qualitative leaps when compared to the day-to-day operation of the former
Lakeview Elementary School. Once the state realized the building was being used not
only for a Peopleʼs School but also as a community space for political education and
culture – they quickly sent their armed thugs to smash the occupation and school.

The state, in this case Superintendent Tony Smith and the School Board, has no
interest in Lakeviewʼs (or any of the other four elementary schools) use-value. These
public schools are being closed because of the exchange value – the value of a
commodity measured in relation to the money form, of their buildings and grounds. Next
year Lakeview, located in an area with high property values, will host administrative offices. These offices will be housed there while a brand new administration building is
completed. Once the new building is ready, the district will no doubt look to rent out
Lakeview to a charter school or sell the property to a developer. Santa Fe Elementary,
the last public school in Oaklandʼs 94608 zip code, is being leased to Emeryville. Lazear
Elementary, whose parents and teachers were denied a charter by Oakland Unified
after the district recommended this course to avoid closure, will be a charter school after
all because the county granted them their charter and OUSD grudgingly allowed them
the use of the building and grounds. Why grudgingly? Because the district intended to
sell the property to Target, and the site was to become another corporate chain store.
Thurgood Marshall and Maxwell Park are both being leased to Charter School
organizations. These closures are not based on anything except Tony Smith and School
Board wanting to generate revenue to balance a public education budget decimated by
austerity. And it just so happens that this fits in with a nationwide trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, which represent the transitional stages for
the ruling class to privatize education across the country.

Use-value over exchange-value is one of many reasons why the Lakeview Sit-in is an extremely important action that should be publicized far and wide. The goals of this action were clear from the beginning – the people taking back what is rightfully theirs and using it for its intended purpose while demanding that the state stop closing neighborhood schools to balance their austerity budgets, stop union-busting, and fully fund free public education. Every urban center in the country that is being bombarded with the same ruling class privatization strategy should hear about the Peopleʼs School for Public Education. The working class must continue and escalate these types of actions. Failure to do so will mean losing access to a major component of our own reproduction — Free Public
Education .

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People’s School for Public Education Student Speaks at July 3rd Rally

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July 3rd March to Tony Smith’s House

July 3rd March to Tony Smith's House

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Rally on July 3rd 5pm after morning Police Raid

Rally on July 3rd 5pm after morning Police Raid

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Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School Continue Fight, Call for Picket

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Early Tuesday morning, what would have been the 18th day of the Sit-in and 12th day of the People’s School, the OUSD police, along with other police forces from across Oakland raided the encampment and school. While participants were allowed to remove their items, the police arrested a parent as well as a former student of Lakeview, and subsequently constructed a fence to block entrance to the school.

 

Lakeview Elementary has been a fixture of this neighborhood for nearly 100 years and supported the development of thousands of Oakland children. The moving trucks began to arrive this morning to clear out classrooms highlights the question: should Oakland allow the this space, so central to the vitality of the community, to be dismantled and made into district offices. The Lakeview building was critical to the maintenance of the People’s School. Although we have been evicted from a school that belongs to the community this does not signify defeat, or that the group has given up on the fight for quality education. The People’s School will continue next week on Tuesday and Thursday.

 

In a recent article Oakland Tribune education reporter Katie Murphy, she writes that Tony Smith believes “that schools can—and must—help transform entire communities through love and a sense of collective responsibility for children.” While the People’s School, and the Lakeview Sit In directly attempted this through providing free essential services to children, Tony Smith’s actions directly contrast this statement. The closure of schools and displacement of thousands of children to already overcrowded schools does not cultivate a loving supportive environment for children. Instead it negatively impacts the ability for parents to transport their children to school, ruptures the relationships of students from their teachers and one another, and destabilizes essential support systems for entire communities.

 

Tony Smith is quoted saying that he hears the “discontent with the current outcomes” and that he realizes “the change isn’t happening fast enough for everybody.” Currently the trajectory of Smith’s policies point to change in the wrong direction. If the change he wants is the cutting of services and programs such as adult education and special education, attacking teacher’s and school workers, school closures, and privatizing education, there will be nothing left of the  public school system when Smith leaves.

The People’s School has been a success and provides a model which other’s can use for re-imagining a more enriching and empowering public education in stark contrast to the system Tony Smith is propagating. It has become a symbol of resistance and received positive support from the Oakland community, thus it will continue for two days next week.

Beyond the People’s School the Lakeview Sit-in continues to build a powerful community-labor alliance and picket sanctioned by the Alameda Labor Council to block the move-in of the administrative offices at Lakeview. In addition, in the continued effort to connect the fight against the criminalization of black and brown youth with the dismantling of the public education system members of the sit-in are joining the march for Raheim Brown, a youth murdered by OUSD Cops at a Skyline High Dance today Friday, July 6th at 11 am. His murderer was the sergeant who gave the dispersal order during the raid on the Lakeview Sit-in. 

There will also be a celebration and convergence focusing on Public Education next Sunday, July 15th at 5pm at Splash Pad Park featuring performances by Boots Riley and other speakers. 

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The Fight Continues…Steps Forward!

The Fight Continues…

We have been evicted but not even close to defeated.  The eviction was not unexpected and now we move on to the next steps of the struggle.  Going forward we must stay organized and connected so that the next, inevitable round of attacks doesn’t catch us flat-footed.  Join us and build a militant resistance to fight for quality public education.  Here are our next steps to take back public education in Oakland:

1.     We continue the free People’s School throughout the week in Splash Pad Park.  Come by and show support for our children and teachers.

2.     We will prevent them from replacing Lakeview Elementary with administrative offices by picketing and blockading.  Already we have helped organize multiple labor unions to call on the Alameda Central Labor Council to declare Lakeview a sanctioned picket site.  We will be out here as soon as they try to move in.  Be ready for the alert.  Schools Are For Kids, Not Administrators!

3.    Join the “Justice 4 Raheim Brown March and Rally” on Friday.  Rally at OPD HQ at 7th and Broadway @ 11A.  Then we march to OUSD HQ.  Education Not Incarceration and More Police!

4.    Join us this Sunday evening (July 8) at 6P for a concert and rally featuring Boots Riley. Organize the campaign to keep neighborhood schools open and fully fund quality public education.  We must build much, much more in the community.

5. Also, help oust current school board members and replace them with candidates completely opposed to the program of austerity and cuts, and who will fight to repudiate the state debt.  There are a few progressive candidates, including three who have helped organize this sit-in: Mike Hutchinson (District 5), Therese Pecot (District 1), and Vicente Peña (District 3).

6.    Organize to re-open the schools yourselves in your own neighborhoods.

 

 

Want to join the fight? Organize with us: saveoaklandschools.org &saveoaklandschools@gmail.com.

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Rally and March to Tony Smith’s House!

In response to the police raid of the Lakeview Sit-in yesterday and in order to continue the struggle for these 5 schools and for quality, fully-funded public education we rallied at 5pm outside of Lakeview Elementary School.

After the rally we marched to Tony Smith’s house and arrived to his house chanting “Tony Smith: Re-Open or Resign”. We had various speakers in front of his house demanding that Tony Smith listen to the people, Re-Open our Schools and stop his destructive cuts and privatization of Oakland schools.

Tony Smith has succeeded in:

  • driving up the dropout rate (now over 48%)
  • driving up class sizes.
  • driving out hundreds of experienced teachers and ripping up union contract protections.
  • shutting down the Adult Education program
  • slashing the Early Childhood Education program
  • eliminating $2.1 million of transportation funds for Special Education.
  • draining the public schools of students and money  by increasing the proliferation of charter schools, that drain public schools of students.

The rally and march of 250 children, parents, teachers and community members showed the power we have moving forward from the Lakeview Sit-in in the struggle for public education!!Image

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