Several years ago, the great activist and prison abolitionist, Angela Davis, told me that California prison guards make more money than the state’s college professors.
I was dumbfounded. But it told me all I wanted to know about how the State values its places of repression, and devalues places of education.
I thought of that conversation when I heard about the latest ‘financial crisis’ facing the Oakland Unified School District, the state’s takeover by an undemocratic agency, and the subsequent threats of cuts, of cutbacks, and the ever-present lure of charter schools.
Oakland is far more than the city that gave birth to the Black Panther Party; it is far more than the popular projection of a poor city.
Oakland’s Port is the 4th largest *in the world*. That port generates some $27 Billion annually in trade. It is home to the American President Lines (APL), the 5th largest shipping company in the world.
American business powerhouses like the Clorox Co., and Rolls-Royce Engines Services, call Oakland home. Golden West Financial/ World Savings is located in Oakland. It has assets of over $68 billion. It’s profits in 2003 were over $900 million. Clorox, by the way, did over $4 billion in sales, netting some $320 million in profits last year.
There’s a very good reason why *Forbes* Magazine ranked Oakland as the 8th best city for business in the U.S. It’s because Oakland isn’t a poor town. Only some people in it are poor. For others, it’s a gold mine.
So why, in a city so good for business, where *billions* are made annually, are the schools so fiscally challenged?
Why? Oakland teacher, Steven Miller explained why in a recent article, when he wrote:
Oakland is not a poor city. In fact, it’s economy is the 20th largest metropolitan economy in the US and the 84th largest in the world. The city’s Gross Metropolitan Product for 2001 was $99.46 billion, larger than San Jose, Denver, Pittsburgh, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Singapore, Malaysia and the Phillippines. This vast wealth comes from Oakland’s port, the country’s fourth largest. However, the port has been legally separated from the city government since the days of the Black Panthers. So none of its revenue “can be used for schools.” Why? “It’s the law!” The same scam of creating artificial legalisms to create artificial crisis is being used across the country. California’s economy is the largest in the country and the fifth largest in the world. However we are told “the state is in debt.” Under the “Governator,” the state is destroying its community college system, once the best in the world, in the name of “fiscal accountability.” This fall, half a million fewer students will go to college in the state than last year. However there will be no cuts for the country’s largest prison system. [From: Steven Miller, “Oakland’s Public Schools: The Coal Miner’s Canary”, *People’s Tribune* (Online Edition), Vol. 31 No. 9/ Sept. ’04, P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, http://www.lrna, org.]
There is no sane reason why the Oakland Unified School District should be in need. It’s like being thirsty, but not allowed to drink from a river nearby. In a truly sane society, schools, where the young are taught how to live in tomorrow’s world, there should be no need. What we have now, is unbridled greed. The corrosive logic of business has been pervading the nation’s schools, and a public, social service is being managed as just another commodity. And kids are losing.
The business interests in this country want nothing public, and all things private, so that it can be owned, and exploited. These interests want nothing less than the extinction of the New Deal; the evisceration of social security; the ‘public’ removed from public schools. That’s the objective of the right wing in this country, and under these madcap programs like No Child Left Behind, they are nearing their objective. Every time I hear that lying phrase, I think of the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, where no child was left — alive.
Martin Luther King, Jr., if he were alive today, would be fighting for the children of Oakland, demanding resources from those who have them — the wealthy, downtown.
Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal