This is the last weekend before Election Day. Some of you (around 40%) have already sent in your ballots. For the rest of you: you already know this is an important election, and you’ve likely decided which presidential candidate will get your vote.
And, as critically important as the presidential election is for our democracy, for most Oakland children and families, the outcome of the upcoming school board election as well as local and state ballot measures will have a direct impact on our lives. This is an opportunity to clearly state who we are and what we stand for at every level of politics in this country. Even for “down ballot” races, our choices communicate whether we prioritize finding solutions or casting blame, whether it’s okay to dehumanize others or better to seek to understand them, whether we really mean it when we say that we care about all children, whether we put resources behind what we say matters, and whether we celebrate sowing discord or building bridges.
At Educate78, we believe public education is the foundation of change at the local level. It’s how we build a strong democracy. Good decisions about public schools during this election cycle will shape our entire community for decades to come.
So when we vote, we start at the bottom of the ballot! The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) has 4 seats open out of a 7-member board (Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7). OUSD’s Board sets priorities and makes policy decisions which affect over 50,000 children, including 35,000 children in OUSD-operated schools and 15,000 students in charter schools authorized by OUSD. Of those students, 70% live in poverty. The Board also oversees an annual budget of $700 million, along with $900M in facilities bond funding.
This year, no incumbents are running, so in January 2021, first-time board members will be the majority. The new school board will be responsible for enormously high stakes decisions. They’ll need to decide when and how to reopen schools safely and, with forecasts of recession-era state funding, they’ll need to decide what to preserve and what to cut in future budgets. Even before the pandemic forced everyone into remote learning, fewer than 1 in 4 Black and Brown students could read on grade level — something the incoming Board will need to address. Our students deserve to have their education overseen by well-informed, astute, collaborative and capable governing board members.
Here are some other important education-related items on the ballot:
OUSD’s Measure Y, if approved, would provide funding that will address some of the $3B backlog in various renovation and maintenance projects in school buildings.
Measure QQ if approved would allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in future Board of Education elections in Oakland.
At the state level, Prop 15 will affect funding for schools and Prop 18 will determine whether high school students can vote in future school board elections at age 17 if they’ll be 18 by that November.
Oakland children can’t vote, nor can the many newcomers who contribute to the beautiful diversity of our city. As you turn the pages of your ballot, we hope you will cast your votes in ways that support them, too.
Maribel & Gloria