Category: Equal Rights/Equity

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

East Bay leaders speak at a press conference Tuesday, prolcaiming that local communities are united against against hatred and bigotry and committed to nonviolence. Left to Right: Supervisor Keith Carson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein

Congresswoman Barbara and other East Bay political leaders held a press conference at Berkley City Hall Tuesday to condemn hatred, bigotry and violence as local communities prepare for white supremacists rallies planned for Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in Berkeley.

“President Trump has emboldened white nationalists, but we must hold steadfast to our progressive values as a community, regardless of the challenges,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“We cannot allow anyone, certainly not the president, to roll back the clock on progress. We must stand united against hate,” she said.

Growing up in the South, she said, “I have seen the kind of world these demonstrators want to create.”

Joining Congresswoman Lee at the press conference were Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and District Attorney Nancy O´Malley.

Some protesters are planning to confront the white supremacists in downtown Berkeley. Others are calling for a rally, supported by labor, faith-based organizations and Democratic clubs, in another part of Berkeley to demonstrate the Bay Area’s commitment to oppose racist terrorism.

Berkeley Mayor Arreguín urged people not to to confront the white supremacists.

He underscored the city´s support for free speech for all points of view but drew a distinction between those who want to express themselves and those who come to town seek to terrorize the community.

“We are working to keep our public safe,” he said. “We are not going to allow bigotry and hate in our community.”

Organizers of the rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley claim they are not white supremacists, but according to Mayor Arreguín the discussion on social media about the events indicates otherwise.

Senator Skinner announced she is introducing a bill to strengthen California´s anti-hate crime laws calling on local, state and federal law enforcement to treat white supremacists as terrorists and direct law enforcement to use all available options to prosecute members of these groups.

“If their intention is to terrorize our communities, it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists,” she said.

Local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement distinguishing between free speech and marching with guns and other weapons with the intent to commitment violence.

“Thee ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble,” the statement from directors ACLU’s Northern California, Southern California and San Diego chapters says.

“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

A large coalition of groups and individuals is holding a “Bay Area Rally Against Hate,” which is not organized to physically confront the white supremacists.

According to the rally announcement, “fascists and white supremacists are meeting in Berkeley to try to intimidate us and incite violence. We’re meeting near UC Berkeley campus, blocks away and on the other side of the downtown, to speak to each other about the world we want. Join us, bring snacks, bring signs.”

The rally, hosted by Unite for Freedom Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area, will be held Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Crescent Lawn, Oxford and Addison streets at UC Berkeley.

Published August, 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Bay Area Protests Against White Supremacy, in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Rep. Barbara Lee calls on president to remove bigoted White House aides

 

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

 

By Post Staff

Protests last took place across the Bay Area over the weekend in response to the killing of an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, part of a nationwide upsurge of anger against the resurgence of white supremacists and Nazis and President Trump´s support for bigotry.

Protests were held Saturday and Sunday in Oakland. The Saturday march was called, “Charlottesville We Got Your Back, Bay Area United Against White Supremacy.” Among the signs marchers carried were ones that read, “White Silence Equals Violence” and “Call it what it is. White supremacy.”

Oakland’s Sunday evening protest was held in front of City Hall, “for unity and (to make) a firm stance against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism and hate,” according to a Facebook calendar page.

A march was also held in Berkeley, and candlelight vigils were scheduled at City Hall in San Francisco, the Contra Costa County Courthouse in Martinez, Adobe Park in Castro Valley and Poinsett Park in El Cerrito.

In the South Bay, protests were scheduled Sunday at San Jose City Hall, Mountain View’s Gateway Park, at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center and at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, along with the “Quad Caucus,” sent a letter this week to President Trump demanding he immediately remove white supremacists Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House.

Issuing the statement were Congresswoman Lee and leadership of the Congressional Quad-Caucus, composed of chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

“The white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville have brought vile racism, hatred and bigotry to the forefront of our political discourse once again,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We cannot address the dangerous spread of white supremacy in America without honestly examining its influence on the Oval Office.

“President Trump has elevated hate and discrimination to the highest levels of our government. From the Muslim Ban, to raids on immigrant communities, a ban on transgender Americans serving in our military, attempts to revive the failed war on drugs and an all-out assault on civil and human rights, the influence of the alt-right is clear in the Trump Administration’s policy agenda.

“Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller have long embraced the views of white supremacists, white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. These prejudiced ideologies have no place in the highest office in our land. I urge President Trump to remove (them) from the White House without delay.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said:

“It is shameful that Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who each have ties to extremist and white nationalist ideological groups and leaders, are serving as President Trump’s top advisors.

“Extremists groups have used their presence in the White House to legitimize their divisive and violent rhetoric, ideology, and actions. They should have no role in creating national policy or pushing their twisted political agenda.”

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

New Citizens’ Police Commission Could Become Among Strongest in Nation

 OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

 

By Post Staff

A selection panel made its final choices this week for the city’s new citizens’ police commission, established by an overwhelming vote in November, which will have significant power to investigate and punish police misconduct and help set policies for the Oakland Police Department.

Four commissioners were picked Monday by the selection panel. Three additional members were appointed by Mayor Libby Schaaf. Two alternates, one picked by Mayor Schaaf and one selected by the panel, were also named.

Edwin Prather

Edwin Prather

Originally, almost 150 Oakland residents applied to be on the commission. The selection panel ultimately interviewed 28 finalists.

A number of observers have argued that Oakland’s police commission, which has the power to fire the police chief and recommend a pool of finalists to replace the chief, could end up being one of the strongest in the nation.

According to Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, “The selection panel was absolutely stunned” that so many applications were turned in, including 50 that came in on the last day.

The members of the panel had a huge amount of work  sorting through the applications and contacting references, she said. “(But) I think they came out with an absolutely great group of people. I think they did a fabulous job.”

The idea of utilizing a selection panel composed mostly of residents, not politicians, to pick the members of police commission “has never been done before” anywhere in the nation, she said.

Once the City Council comes back from recess in September, it will have to vote on confirming the commissioners, giving the public a chance to weigh in, she said.

Regina Jackson

Regina Jackson

The City of Oakland also has to hire two positions that were budgeted to staff the work of the commission.

“I think by October the police commission should be ready to start work,” said Grinage.

Panel appointees:

Mubarak Ahmad works for AC Transit. He coaches little league baseball and is a basketball coach for Montera Middle School.  He is the father of six children and six grandchildren.

Jose Dorado, an Oakland native, runs a tax and bookkeeping business in the Frutivale District. He is the longtime leader of Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, which works on public safety issues. He also served on the Measure Y oversight committee.

Jose Dorado

Jose Dorado

Ginale Harris lives in East Oakland. She currently works as a San Francisco deputy court clerk. She has worked as a probation and parole advocate helping formerly incarcerated people. In 2012, she served on SFPD Chief Greg Suhr’s violence prevention committee.

Mike Nisperos, who was raised in Oakland, has served as an Alameda County prosecutor and an associate in the John Burris law firm handling police misconduct cases. He authored the Oakland Mayor’s 2001 Public Safety Plan. He has been arrested by OPD four times.

Alternate Maureen Benson is a 17-year Oakland resident. She has worked as an Oakland teacher and principal.

Mayoral appointees:

Edwin Prather is an attorney in San Francisco. He has worked with the Asian Law Caucus and for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Thomas Smith serves as the political action chair of the Oakland NAACP. He previously worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and Company. He helped set up a charter school in Massachusetts and was on the board of a charter school in Oakland.

Regina Jackson serves as president and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).
Alternate Andrea Dooley is an attorney and an arbitrator who has worked at Kaiser Permanente.

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Communities Mobilize to Repeal State Law That Restricts Renter Protections

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

By Post Staff

Rob Bonta and two other member of the State Assembly are sponsoring a bill, AB 1506, to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act, which prevents local governments from passing laws to protect California communities from the runaway rental crisis that is engulfing the state.

Affordable housing advocates are asking supporters statewide to support the bill authored by Assemblymembers Bonta, Richard Bloom and David Chiu.

“This will be a heavy lift and we need all hands on deck,” according to an email sent out by Bonta’s office earlier this year.

“The bill is pretty straightforward as it repeals the Costa-Hawkins law…. We are asking all of our local advocates and their partners to help by sending in letters of support, making phone calls, writing op-eds, setting up meetings with key Assemblymembers and mobilize constituents in support of AB 1506,”
the email said.

For a list of housing committee members, go to http://ahcd.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff

Passed in 1995, Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from enacting rent increase limitations on certain kinds of exempted dwelling units, allows rent increases on subtenants following departure by tenants of rent-controlled tenancies and prohibits “vacancy control” — the regulation of rental rates on units that have been voluntarily vacated by the previous renters at an amount other than what the open market would bear.”

Costa Hawkins also prohibits any type of controls on rents or leases of condominium units or single-family homes.

According to James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union and a supporter of AB 1506,“The repeal of Costa Hawkins the is absolutely critical to help stop the displacement that is running rampant in this state – the law prevents cities from enacting any kind of effective control on rents.

“Real estate and landlord groups have been vociferously lobbying against repeal,” Vann said. They were able to block the repeal effort two years ago, but pro-tenant organizations were not as strong at that time, he said.

“We need for tenant and pro housing advocates to lobby the Legislature for the bill to come up next year,” Vann said.

Landlords groups that are fighting the repeal bill argue that developers will not build homes if they fear their projects might fall under rent control.
“Rent control builds no new housing, and that has to be our focus in the Legislature,” said Debra Carlton, spokeswoman for the California Apartment Association in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

For more information go to www.tenantstogether.org/campaigns/repeal-costa-hawkins-re

Published August 17, 20017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Youth at MLK Freedom Center Join Struggle to Empower Voters

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

Sophia Quintana of Berkeley and active member of the MLK Freedom Center registers voters at July 4 naturalization ceremony in Seattle, WA.

By Ken Epstein

Young people who participated in an intensive six-week voter registration and community engagement project this summer recently attended a labor breakfast celebration in their honor, where they talked about their efforts to register new voters and reflected on what they learned and how it transformed them.

The “Civic Engagement Pilgrimage,” organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, which is based at Merritt College in Oakland took a diverse group of 65 young people, mostly high school students from Oakland and Washington state, on a journey from Washington to Portland to Bakersfield and Fresno in California, where they registered voters and had in-depth discussions with elected officials, community and tribal leaders in urban and rural areas and Indian nations.

The breakfast was held Aug. 4 at the offices of the Alameda Labor Council in Oakland, attended by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and Peralta Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, who are strong supporters of the work of the freedom center.

The young people said they heard the same words over and over from people in different communities: “Our voices don´t matter; nothing you do will change the system,” according to Laelah Jackson, a junior at Berkeley High.

“It is important to educate and be educated,” she said.  “What we´re doing is bigger than each of us. “It’s the ‘we’” that makes the difference.

“We learned that we live in very trying times night now,” said Angela Drake, a student at Castlemont High School. “We have to give hope to each other. No one is going to do it for us, but us.”

The young people said that in the course of their discussions with people and the classes and trainings among themselves they learned critical thinking, experienced growing self confidence and a sense of “love and solidarity” with each other and the people.

The Martin Luther King Freedom Center, which was created by Oakland’s MLK Day March and Rally Committee, began its work in 2001.  Executive Director Dr. Roy Wilson has led the organization for the past 10 years.

Based on the lessons of summer´s listening sessions and discussions in communities, the center plans to launch intensive voter education and registration efforts this year, including work in congressional districts in California´s Central Valley.
For more information on the Freedom Center, go to www.mlkfreedomcenter.org

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Post News Group

New Oakland Schools’ Superintendent Emphasizes Transparency and Collaboration

 

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

 

By Ken Epstein

In the first press conference of her new administration, Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell spoke about some of the big concerns on the minds of members of the Oakland community: producing quality and equity in schools, transparency and collaboration of the central office in dealing with schools and parents and what will be the impact on school communities of the large hole left in the budget by the last superintendent.

When Johnson-Trammell, 41, took over the leadership of the district on July 1, she became the first homegrown leader of the Oakland Unified School District in over a dozen years.

Born and raised in East Oakland, she attended Montclair Elementary and Montera Middle schools. She has worked for 18 years in the district as a teacher, principal, administrator and interim deputy superintendent.

Addressing concerns about the financial solvency of the district, she emphasized that OUSD faces the same tough issues as city districts across the state, inadequate funds and a teacher shortage, especially in bilingual and special education.

As an urban district, she said, ¨We have been in this state before.”

She said she hopes to avoid or mitigate some of the worst of the possible budget cuts, employing “creative and innovative” methods to save money, in addition to raising money from outside sources.

Underscoring her commitment to collaboration with the school community, she said, ”It can´t be just myself and two other people in the room making those decisions.”

However, ultimately hard choices sometimes must be made between competing needs for limited resources.

“At the end of the day, we´re going to have to say no (sometimes),” she said. “There will be probably be some tension. It´s my responsibility to be a good shepherd of the resources we have.”

Johnson-Trammell said the district has high quality programs and should build on them.

Two high schools that are doing well are Coliseum College Prep Academy (CCPA) in East Oakland, which has high graduation rates of Latino students, and McClymonds High School in West Oakland, which has high rates of graduation of African-American students.

She said she was committed to providing high quality programs for “newcomer” immigrant students and special education students and that the district will work to hire a stable teacher corps that is reflective of the city´s demographics.

The district will work to improve academic quality, but the role of the central office is not to micromanage school sites. There has to “more team-building,” she said.  “ When we try to tell every school how do it, that´s when we make a mistake.”

Johnson-Trammell rejected the approach that is often popular with new superintendents who promise dramatic changes and a set of quick fixes.

“Most of the problems we have are systemic problems. The tendency is to come and shake everything up,” she said, but the reality is that if the problems were that simple to solve, they would already have been solved.

“We´ve shook up a lot in this district, and that´s part of the reason we´re in the shape we´re in,” she said.

While some people point to the possibility of closing schools as a way to reduce the district´s budget gap, she pledged that no schools would be closed without careful study and consultation with school communities.
Many students, teachers and community members complain about instability at flatland schools, where programs, teachers and principals come and go every year or two.

“We have to support (and train) principals and teachers so they can improve,” she said. “We have to develop the talent in our district so people stay.”

With a deep commitment to equity, the district will have to continue to work “to disrupt our implicit bias that´s inherent” in all public school systems, she said.

Published August 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Faith Leaders Call on Legislators to Commit to Jobs, Justice and Human Rights

 

Speakers at a community coal meeting included (L to R): Pastor Ken Chambers of West Side Baptist Church, Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, and Will Scott, program director of California Faith Power & Light. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Pastor Ken Chambers

 

By Ken Epstein

Three Oakland pastors are taking the lead to bring together interfaith religious leaders to participate in coordinated faith community actions next month at statehouses across the country to revive the country’s moral commitment to jobs, justice, immigrant rights and an end to mass incarceration.

Read more »

Opinion: Violence Against Students by Oakland Schools’ Staff Must Stop

Fremont_Walkout

 

By Jorge Lerma

Jorge Lerma

Jorge Lerma

A disturbing new video has surfaced showing security guards at Fremont High in Oakland roughing up and handcuffing a student in the school’s office.

The school district is saying the Jan. 8 video may not show what it seems to show. The district says the 16-year-old student was acting strangely, was a danger to himself and had to be restrained.

But what we see in the video is a Latino student acting calmly and trying to walk out of the office door when he was manhandled by a School Security Officer who began hitting him and pushed him into a room, where they were joined by several other officers. A few moments later, we see the young man being taken out of the side room in handcuffs.

This is not a new occurrence for Fremont High and the Oakland Unified School District. A school security camera last year recorded a Latino student also being beaten up by security guards at Fremont High in the main office.

Earlier at Oakland High School, a camera caught a security guard attacking a student in a wheelchair.

Scene of video of Fremont High School's office where school security officer had a confrontation with student. Screen shot courtesy of KGO-TV.

Scene of video of Fremont High School’s office where school security officer had a confrontation with student. Screen shot courtesy of KGO-TV.

As a lifelong educator, Oakland resident and community activist, I think it is fair to say that a systemic, endemic problem exists in Oakland Unified. The videos are capturing Latino students, often special education students, being brutalized – not out of the public eye in the parking lot or behind the gym – but in the main office of the school.

And from what we witness in the videos, nobody intervened to stop the assaults.

This kind of behavior may be shocking news to people in our community, but you can be sure the students at our schools know about it and many have experienced it.

If this kind of violence is condoned against our children, we would have to be naïve to believe the school system enforces a respectful, humane educational environment in the classrooms and that all of our students – especially our special educational students – are given opportunities to be successful.

Of course, there are many decent and humane teachers, administrators and security officers who love their students and dedicate their lives to education.

But do they have the power to change this system? Do they have the ability to intervene when our students are brutalized by those in authority?

Do those with the experience and the humanity have the opportunity to select and train the inexperienced teachers, administrators and consultants who at present troop through our schools for six months, a year or two years without a clue about our students and the complex multicultural diversity of student needs in our community.

Last year, after the last incident at Fremont, the Latino Education Network (LEN), of which I am member, submitted a list of questions and concerns to the district, but we never received a response.

The concerns were:

School Security Officers (SSOs) lack leadership and high professional standards;

A lot is expected of the SSOs in terms of stopping violence and maintaining safety at a school site, but they lack training in issues of how to work with students with learning disabilities, cultural and language differences, and angry or upset students.

The security force is not diverse, or multicultural in its makeup, or have enough bilingual personnel to help students in a crisis;

The security force lacks proportional Latinos and Spanish speaking officers in its ranks and in the leadership from the superintendent’s cabinet to the program operations.

The district administration talks in speeches, and press releases about “Equity and Redesign” of schools, and though the words are bold, the reality is that our children are suffering, living in the margins and are often excluded from the benefits of the mainstream academic programs.

At this point, I think it is clear that the school security force should be temporarily disbanded and totally reorganized.

A group of parents, students and community activists (especially high school students and members of youth organizations) should be established – not handpicked by administrative staff – to create guidelines and oversee the creation of a new “Peace keepers “security force that protects and supports students and are integrated into the academic programs of the district, not just Fremont High School alone, but throughout the district.

 

Reprinted from the Oakland Post, January 29, 2016 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

Black Students Demand School District Take Steps to Reduce Racism at Berkeley High

By Ken Epstein

In the wake of a racist, violent threat and a one-day walkout by most of the student body at Berkeley High School (BHS), the school’s Black Student Union is demanding that the school board and district administration act immediately to reduce the level of racism on campus, create a safe place at the school for African American students and enhance the teaching of African American studies.

Nebeyat Zekaryas

Nebeyat Zekaryas

The demands were presented to the board and Supt. Donald Evans at the Dec. 9 board meeting by Black Student Union (BSU) Co-Presidents Nebeyat Zekaryas and Alecia Harger.

Zekaryas told the board that the BSU is raising its demands “in light of the terroristic messages left on a Berkeley High computer on Nov. 4, 2015 and in light of the continued instances of systemic and interpersonal racism that plague our school.”

“We demand that history curriculum in grades K through 12 be amended to include Black history and an accurate view of colonialism … African history up to the present day, the history of the Black people in the Americas, including but not limited to enslavement, the civil rights movement and historically significant Black people outside of equality movements,” said Zekaryas.

Alecia Harger

Alecia Harger

“Black history (should) be taught as an important and relevant piece of world history rather than its own independent subject that is relegated to a semester of ethnic studies,” she said.

“It is insulting to condense all history of nonwhite people into an ethnic studies class,” she said. “It is essential that Black students are educated on this history in its entirety – Black students should not be expected to excel in an institution that gives us knowledge where we can only see our ancestors as slaves.”

The BSU is also demanding full funding for the Berkeley High’s African American Studies Department. “This funding (should) allow for the continuation and betterment of all currently running programs,” Zekaryas said.

BSU Co-President Harger told the board the BSU is demanding that the district create and fund a Black Resource Center on campus.

The Black Resource Center would be a location where Black students can congregate and (find) support for any issue that we may face,” said Harger.

“This center would become a permanent school fixture until Black students regularly have the same test scores and are graduating at the same rate as white students,” she said.

The BSU wants Berkeley Unified to create a committee to recruit and retain Black staff throughout the district.

“We demand that this committee include representatives of Berkeley elementary, middle and high schools, along with members of the Berkeley High BSU,” said Harger.

The BSU also wants the district to institute comprehensive racial sensitivity training for all Berkeley High faculty and staff, she said. “(The) training (should) be ongoing and not be limited to a single professional development day.”

“Black students cannot be expected to feel safe in our classrooms or on our campus if Berkeley High School staff is not equipped to discuss or handle issues of racism or racial bias.” said Harger.

The BSU wants the district administration to begin implementing the demands within the next three to six months and to receive an official response from Supt. Evans no later than Dec. 16.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 18, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland School District’s Catalog Promotes Charters That Exclude Special Needs Students

Enrollment Options Guide

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) for the first time has included charter schools in its annual catalog of school choices for parents – advertising many charters that do not offer services for special education students and English Language Learner students.Enrollment Options Guide sp

The new catalog is a big step toward implementing “common enrollment,” a proposal by OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson’s administration that has not yet been approved by the board of education.

The administration has said its goal is to create opportunities for students who are underserved in Oakland public schools to move to better public or charter schools.

The proposal minimizes the distinction between district schools and charters – despite differences in curriculum, legal requirements and level of public accountability – because they are both publically funded.

“This year, for the first time, you will find individual school descriptions and application information of all OUSD public schools, including charters,” said Supt. Antwan Wilson in an open letter published in the 195-page catalog.

“With this guide, parents and caregivers can learn about any Oakland public school (public or charter) they choose and make the best decision for their families,” he said.

Roseann Torres

Roseann Torres

However, 44 of the 62 charter school programs listed in the Enrollment Options Guide say they do not offer multilingual and English learner services, and 40 say they offer no special education services.

Oddly, while the physical catalog released last week contains charter school listings that say they offer no special education services, an online version of the catalog that was on the district website this week has been revised.

Under the heading of special education services, it now says, “Contact school for details.”

By the Post’s deadline, the school district did not respond to questions about the catalog.

At least some Board of Education members are saying they had not been informed that the new options catalog was going to include charter schools.

“I didn’t even know that it was coming. As a board member, that really bothers me,” said Roseann Torres, who represents District 5 on the board.

“We were elected to do policy and direct the superintendent, not the reverse.”

“We are public schools, and by law we are supposed to serve all students. But the majority of charter schools are not there to educate all.

The catalog is published annually by the OUSD Student Assignment Office. This year’s edition cost $78,000 to produce.

Jorge Lerma

Jorge Lerma

Parents and school activists who have been critical of the district’s increased support for charter schools are finding the new catalog disturbing.

According to opponents, for a charter to say they do not offer these services, they are in effect telling parents of English Language Learners and special education students they should not bother to apply to their schools.

Meanwhile the district – by promoting these charters – is giving a green light to practices that are discriminatory, potentially illegal and move toward the consolidation of a two-tier public school system, say opponents.

Jorge Lerma, a member of the board of the Latino Education Network (LEN) in Oakland and former OUSD administrator, says the new system may end up shortchanging the students it is supposed to help.

“Superficially, it seems like it is going to offer a wider menu for parents to choose from, but it ends up excluding the students who are most in need of support,” said Lerma.

“These charters don’t say we’ll work with you – we’ll help figure what your children need. They’re saying they don’t offer these services,” he said.

“Public money is supposed to serve the public,” continued Lerma. “That means taxpayers. But if you’re using tax money to create little enclaves, you’re defeating the purpose of public education.”

Dan Siegel, former school board member and a former general counsel for the district, criticized the superintendent and school board for promoting charter schools.

“It’s completely outrageous that they are doing this,” he said. “They are promoting the destruction of the public school system in the City of Oakland, and they are promoting a system of education that discriminates against English language learners—who are a big portion of children in the district, and students with special needs—who are disproportionately low-income African American students.”

While discriminatory policies of charters and the district promotion might violate the law, there are few or no cases where these practices have been challenged in court – so far, he said.

Under the state education code “admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations (of charter schools) shall not charge tuition, and shall not discriminate against any pupil.”

Ismael Armendariz, an OUSD special education teacher and a member of the teachers’ union executive board, says he was upset by the implied message sent out by the district that many of the charter schools will not accept special education students.

“This (catalog) is going out to thousands of parents and children. If I were a parent and looking at that message, I wouldn’t apply to that school. I’d skip it. It’s going to discourage them.”

He said that he had a student this year, a good student who works hard, who came from a charter school and had been encouraged to leave because the school said it did not have the resources to help him.

“I come from a community and family who weren’t not always given the best support. It’s really hurtful to me when my students don’t have access to all the opportunities other students have.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)