Students read letters about cuts to Oakland school board
on April 14, 2011
Lacy Lefkowitz teaches ancient history at Claremont Middle School, but last night she gave her students a lesson in current affairs. Six of Lefkowitz’s sixth graders stood before the board to read their letters about what they thought ought to be cut, and what ought to be saved, at their school next year. The Oakland Unified School district is currently facing a $30 million budget reduction on top of last year’s $122 million in cuts.
Several students asked the board to save sports and after-school programs. They cited adult supervision and making school fun as reasons these programs should stick around. Other students asked the board to cut anything but the teachers.
“There are far too many people who just complain,” Lefkowitz said. “There are ways to get your voice out there. You can complain or you can do something about it.
Lefkowitz said her students couldn’t wait to write the letters, something she first asked them to do on March 4, the statewide day of action to protest education funding cuts. “I had a 100 percent turn-in rate,” she said. “I had silence in my classroom for 15 minutes—a focused silence.”
Student Abyssinia Gibson said addressing the board made her kind of nervous, but that it was a good experience. “I thought my letter was good,” she said. “[The cuts are] not fair and it doesn’t help the schools at all.”
Gibson’s letter concentrated on the importance of teachers and class size. “You should not cut teaching positions because that means larger class sizes, as much as 40 students!” she wrote. “That’s a lot and that means more class distractions and less learning.”
Emel Shivers is not shy in class, his teacher said, but he was a bit nervous about addressing the board. “It felt weird and good at the same time,” he said later. Shivers’ letter allowed that the board could cut field trips and electives to save money, but hoped school lunches, sports programs and teachers would be saved.
“It’s good they go their education,” Shivers said of the adults at the meeting. “How come we can’t get ours?”
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