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News Update

Dirk Tillotson, education activist, shot to death in Oakland

A well-known education blogger, attorney and activist, Dirk Tillotson, died in a home invasion robbery Friday night in his Oakland home.

Tillston was cofounder of Great School Voices, a nonprofit that advocates for educational equity for Black, Latino and low-income students. His death was confirmed by friends and on the Great School Voices website, although the Alameda County Coroner has not yet confirmed his death.

Dirk Tillotson 

“He was brilliant. He scrutinized data, but it wasn’t just about numbers. It was, how do we solve this problem?” said Tillotson’s friend and colleague, former Oakland school board member Jumoke Hinton. “He was driven by what people need and what they want, and he fought for them.”

Tillotson worked for schools and on education issues in New York, India, Qatar, New Orleans and Oakland. Although he had been involved in the charter school movement since the mid-1990s, he noted in his blog that he’s not exclusively a charter advocate.
“Am I pro-charter? Kind of, kind of not,” he wrote. “I am pro-good school, good meaning quality programs and equity.”

Tillotson helped found one of Oakland’s first charter schools, West Oakland Community School, in the 1990s, and with Hinton cofounded an organization called the State of Black Education in Oakland, which pushes for policies that benefit Black students and recognize their accomplishments. But he also fought for education issues beyond California, including a push in 2020 for free Internet access for all families while school campuses were closed. Based partly on his efforts, Comcast agreed to offer free Internet service to low-income families who needed it.

“For over thirty years, Dirk has been an educator, movement builder, and voice for making our school systems better, especially for Black students and other students of color,” Iris Crawford, a colleague of Tillotson’s, wrote. “He believed and fought for our kids because academically, high-quality education is an inherent right, not a luxury.”

Tillotson, 52, was killed during a robbery at his East Oakland home late Friday night, the East Bay Times reported. His wife was also wounded. Oakland Police have not made any arrests, and the investigation is ongoing.

Colleagues have set up an online fundraiser for Tillotson’s family.