I came to Oakland in 1968. The United States was at war in Vietnam, and anti-war protests were building steam. In Berkeley, the university bulldozed a city block of single family homes drawing the ire of the community and triggering protests on the site that would become People’s Park. The United Farm Workers were fighting to earn fair wages and living conditions for their work in California’s fields. It was a time of unrest, and a time for protest.
Today, all across our city, people are joining hands and marching to confront some of the same issues that were present in the 60s: racial injustice, dis-equity, lack of access to housing, and un-equal access to a quality public education. In Oakland there are especially pernicious and persistent inequities when it comes to access to a high quality school. Some neighborhoods like the Oakland Hills have an abundance of top-performing schools. Other neighborhoods (primarily those in neighborhoods where families are struggling economically and battling the oppressive weight of hundreds of years of systemic racism) are served by schools that are historically ineffective.
For those of us with privilege it’s long past time to acknowledge the need for systemic change. We need to make reparations and reallocate resources to serve the communities that have been oppressed and denied access to a quality education.
Parents with the privileges of wealth and white skin have always had a choice when it comes to their children’s education. If the public school in their neighborhood is not up to their expectations, privileged parents have the option to choose a private school, or move through the tunnel. In Oakland’s flat lands, though, the promise of a quality education is elusive.
There are a lot of charter schools in Oakland, and like the schools run by the district, some are better than others. I know some of the people who operate teach in charter schools in Oakland and I know that they have the same passion and commitment to the education of Oakland’s children as their OUSD counterparts. These schools were developed to give parents a choice when their only other option was a school in their neighborhood where the district had failed to deliver on the promise of a quality education. Lack of choice is systemic oppression.
I intend to empower families in Oakland by assuring that there is always a choice to send their children to schools that offer the promise of a quality education. The charter schools in Oakland that deliver on this promise will continue to be authorized by the district to serve the city’s students. Schools that don’t deliver, will lose their charter. I pledge to work with the other directors of the board of education to develop policies that will hold the district administration and charter school leaders accountable for raising academic outcomes of students in every school in the city. In California, all charter schools are non-profit organizations. That means they must adhere to California law regarding financial transparency, and as a director on Oakland’s board of education I will expect every charter school in Oakland to report on their finances to the district. Charter schools will be held accountable to the same academic standards and financial transparency as every district run school in Oakland.