By Ken Epstein
Parent Voices Oakland and other Oakland community groups this week joined with parents and community leaders from Inglewood in Southern California to demand an end to state-imposed school closings and decades of budget cutbacks at the annual board meeting of the state-financed nonprofit, Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).
At the meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, held at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey, the community coalition demanded “that FCMAT change its racist policy course or, if they refuse, (we) demand that Governor Newsom hold this state agency accountable for their decades of racist public school closures and colonization of Black and Brown communities,” according to a press statement that was released prior to the protest.
The protesters shut down the meeting. They scheduled a meeting with FCMAT’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Fine.
The coalition is “demanding that the Governor recognize progress and new funding wins and that he holds this state agency accountable for their decades of racist public-school closures that continue to disproportionately impact schools and communities of color.”
Specific parent demands are:
- FCMAT reimburse local districts for costs incurred during state takeovers of school districts including Oakland and Inglewood, among others;
- Newsom should create stable funding for majority student-of-color districts in his next budget;
- Newsom and state education leaders commit to a multi-year approach to early and K-12 education to guarantee stability to the state’s classrooms;
- Restore local sovereignty to districts of color currently under FCMAT’s domination.
According to the parent coalition, up to now, FCMAT has received minimal public attention, and as a result, has not been held accountable for targeting working-class districts of color in California for decades with state takeover and receiverships.
Reporting directly to the governor, FCMAT has forced districts into debt, utilizing audits to require unnecessary loans, exorbitant fees, and unachievable financial outcomes, according to the coalition press statement.
The Oakland Unified School District has remained under FCMAT’s domination since the state took over in 2003. Already, under FCMAT’s leadership, more than 30 Oakland schools have been closed. Now, in the 2021-2023 school years, 13 additional Oakland schools have either been closed or are expected to close at the end of this school year.
The state has forced Oakland and Inglewood, majority Black and Brown school districts, to take loans far more than what the community needed, wanted, or agreed to, and then has given authority to FCMAT to exercise complete control over these districts because of debts the district did not create, the press statement said.
FCMAT often requires school districts to close schools even when these actions do not save funds and overrules attempts by these districts, and parents to find alternatives to save funds apart from closing schools, the press statement said.
In a September 21 letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, coalition members wrote:
“Beyond Oakland and Inglewood, a much longer list of school, early education and community college districts, almost entirely majority Black and Brown districts, have been under the thumb of FCMAT for decades, forced into austerity measures by an entirely unaccountable entity led by an overwhelmingly white leadership team (comprised of 22 people that include 20 white and 2 Latinx individuals). FCMAT itself says there are a ‘historic’ number of districts on its list this year – all majority Black and Brown districts. FCMAT does not exert this level of control over any white majority school districts in California.”
Among the signers of the letter were Inglewood parents and community leaders, including members of Inglewood Rising and Law 4 Black Lives Inglewood, as well as representatives from Oakland, including Zach Norris of Oakland Not For Sale, Dr. Frankie Free Ramos of Oakland Progressive Alliance and Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein, an Oakland education professor.
At press time, FCMAT has not responded to a request for comment from the Oakland Post.
The post Oakland Parents Join Statewide Coalition to Protest State-Imposed School Closings first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.