School Closures Drive Oakland School Board Races 

Oakland's school board races are highly competitive this November, in part because of the decision last year to close five schools.

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As for Fuentes, he said he did not get into the race because of the school-closures issue, although he indicated that he would have voted against the plan. He said one of his driving forces is erasing the millions of dollars of debt incurred by the State of California when it operated OUSD. The state is now forcing Oakland to pay that debt to the state.

Fuentes, who has worked as a volunteer at Hoover Elementary School in West Oakland, has numerous endorsements, both from labor and business, and has extensive Democratic Party connections in Sacramento and Southern California. Even State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson endorses him. He said he plans to use his connections "to eliminate a portion of the debt" that the state ran up at OUSD. But it's unclear how he would convince Jerry Brown to go along with that plan since the governor has expressed no interest in doing so.

In terms of the school closures, Fuentes said he would have worked harder to find alternative solutions. He had a similar response when asked how he would have voted on American Indian Public Charter schools. He said he would have approached other charter school organizations to see if they would take over the financial operations of American Indian, "so we could bring stability to those sites."

The Oakland teachers' union endorsed Fuentes.

Correction: The original version of this story erroneously stated that candidate Mike Hutchinson had worked at Lakeview Elementary. He had worked at Santa Fe Elementary. Both schools closed last year.

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