Jeff Bryant writes here about the decision by the Oakland, California, school board to close a number of schools because of a budget shortfall. Some of these schools were popular Community schools, offering services that benefited children, families, and the community. Bryant shows that the closure of these schools would not solve the budget shortfall.

Many readers of this blog used a Zoom link provided by friends in Oakland to listen to the crucial meeting of the school board when the vote was taken. I listened for four hours, as hundreds of students and parents spoke out against the closure of their beloved school. Not a single student or parent during the four hours I listened supported the closings.

The board was unmoved. Two members—Mike Hutchinson and VanCedric Williams— voted against the closings, but the majority voted yea.

One of those who voted for the closings just announced that she was resigning. Shanthi Gonzalez is not waiting for the next election. She claimed that she was interested only in raising academic quality when she supported closing schools.

Shanthi Gonzales, who represents District 6 on the Oakland Unified School District board, announced Monday that she is stepping down from her position immediately, seven months before her term is set to expire.

In a lengthy public statement published on her blog on Monday morning, Gonzales denounced the increasingly hostile discourse surrounding public education in Oakland, which has led to protests, strikes, and personal insults lobbed at school board members. She also called out the lack of progress the district has made in supporting students’ academic needs, and slammed the Oakland Education Association teachers union and its supporters for resisting moves to improve the quality of schools…

Along with board president Gary Yee, Gonzales introduced a resolution in December for the board to consider closing schools because of deep financial troublesbrought on in part by years of declining enrollment. That resolution led to the board’s February decision to close seven schools over the next two years, and merge or downsize several others. Three of the schools slated for closure, Community Day School, Parker K-8, and Carl B. Munck Elementary School, are in Gonzales’ district. null

Opposition to the district’s closure and consolidation plan has been fierce. In recent months, community members have held marches, two educators have staged a hunger strike, and protesters have rallied outside the homes of Gonzales and other school board members. The Oakland Education Association teachers union staged a one-day strike that effectively shut down classes this past Friday. School board meetings have also been contentious, with regular heckling and disruptions at in-person meetings.

All the members who voted for the closings should be voted out of office.

The two members who opposed the schools’ closings are Mike Hutchinson and VanCedric Williams. They are true leaders.