Most of us kicked off the month of September with the three-day Labor Day weekend celebrating the hard work and organizing efforts of working individuals and families. But looking beyond the holiday, it’s important that we take time to remember that working people — particularly teachers of color — continue to struggle in our communities year-round. Teachers throughout California struggle to afford living in the communities they serve, and when they are forced to seek better paying jobs or work in higher-income school districts, our students and families are the ones left paying the price.
Rising costs of living due to gentrification and stagnant wages are making it harder for teachers of color to stay in California, with the Bay Area hit hard in particular. This is having a negative effect on public education, with students and teachers of color feeling unseen and unsupported.
“I had a black teacher for guitar last year. I would say like 20% of the teaching population [is of color] and the rest is just white. There’s this whole thing in Oakland about it not being affordable anymore, so you spend a whole year with a teacher being open and then like the next year they’re not even there. It breaks my heart because you know, you have a connection with a person and then it’s just gone.”
— Yota Omo-Sowho, Oakland student [PIC]
Oakland Unified is facing massive budget cuts and low teacher retention rates but has recently made real strides in addressing the needs of staff and students of color. The district is doubling down on relationship building to help teachers and students feel better supported and capable of success. Student voice is reflected in school policies and students sit in on hiring committees for new teachers to ensure staff understand the needs of the school community. This continued focus on Relationship Centered Schools in Oakland is echoed across CFJ’s other three regions and has helped to create space for meaningful engagement, mentorship and relationship building on campuses statewide. Relationships and resources are key to supporting teachers of color so they can remain in our communities and teach our students year after year.