Taking Action to Improve the State of Black Education in Oakland-Demand 1—Break the Chains Between Segregated Neighborhoods and Quality School Access

“Without struggle there is no progress.”  Long ago Frederick Douglass voiced the mantra of Black folks in America, and it still rings true.  The numbers are dire.  One in Six black children can read in elementary school, charter or district in Oakland.  Black folks are being priced and pushed out, only 4% of Black families can afford to buy a home and Black folks born in West Oakland tend to die 15 years earlier than a White folks born in the Hills.  I could keep going.  But what keeps me going is the community, and the will, energy and hunger for progress.

Over the last year of listening to Black elders, families, youth, and educators, the State of Black Education in Oakland (SoBEO) has engaged hundreds of community members—and they gave us real answers around (1) providing the best schools to the families that really need them (2) hiring, retaining, developing, and supporting diverse teachers, (3) involving the real experts on the classroom, students, in hiring and evaluation of educators, and (4) helping our most challenged families and students with housing.

Today we are talking about the opportunity ticket, how we give access to the best schools to the families that most need them.  And if you want to hear more about it from the families behind the idea, the Oakland REACH, please join us for our Celebratory event 10/20 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from 2-5, tickets are limited.

The Opportunity Ticket- Oakland REACH’s answer to Access

Talking to Families in Oakland, they have plenty of “choices.”  You can technically apply to any school, but depending on where you live—you may not have access to a school you want to go to.  Parents who did the enrollment process were waitlisted in the hundreds for district and charter schools of choice, because of the way we do admissions, and give neighborhood children a preference.

And while there are good reasons for the neighborhood preference—there are also very bad underpinnings on how our neighborhoods got the way that they are.  And we have an obligation to do something about it.

Why Neighborhood Based Admissions are Racist in a few slides

The composition of our neighborhoods were set by racist policies and practices.  Redlining restricted where Black and Brown folks could live, and concentrated them into overcrowded and underserviced neighborhoods, often next to hazardous or industrial areas, commonly called ghettos.

These are still the areas where Black and Brown folks live in Oakland.  And let’s take a quick look at how that original redlining map lines up with environmental stressors, asthma rates, and school quality.  And lets also look at chronic absence and suspensions, because when you are sick you miss school, and often when you miss school you fall behind and become disconnected and struggle to catch up, losing your confidence and becoming oppositional.

Here’s the redlining map showing the areas where Black and Brown folks could live (the red areas),

Here’s the amount of environmental stress that schools are under based on crime, air quality, unemployment and other factors you can see below, pretty closely aligned with redlining


And here is the school quality information, lots of red and orange schools, in those redlined neighborhoods and not a lot of blue and green.

And when students are exposed to hazards they get sick, and sick kids miss school and fall behind, again anything look familiar in this asthma map?

Do you notice anything.   Doesn’t it seem immoral to continue to disadvantage the folks that have born the greatest historical burden already.

That’s why we need the Opportunity Ticket.  This would allow families at closing schools—who we know will be Black, Brown, and underserved, to attend any school in the district.  They would get an admissions preference that trumps the neighborhood preference, and they would gain actual access to the best schools.

Micshell Bunton one of the Oakland REACH parents, described her losing struggle to get her son the school and services he needed and how things need to be different for her daughter,

We need more than a lottery’s chance.  I’m going to keep fighting—for our communities for our kids—so that everyone can have access to a quality education.  I’m wiser, I’m determined.  I’m powerful, let’s make it easier for more Oakland parents to feel the same.

It’s time for access not just choice

It sure the hell is, join us online or at Geoffrey’s and let’s struggle together for the change our families need and deserve.

What do you think?

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