Dear @Jack from Twitter, Oakland Needs your Money, But it Needs Accountability in Spending it Even More

Dear @Jack, you seem like a good guy, you want to help, and giving 10 million dollars to the City to get kids online is a great gesture.  The problem is that it won’t help and it may actually hurt Oakland long term.  I know you are new to Oakland.  But things happen different here.  A recent grand jury report, described Oakland Unified as “a district of exceptions” and not in a good way.

A lot of money flows in and out of “the Town,” consultants are hired, orders are made, powerpoints are unveiled (always with some smiling Black or Brown face on the front) and when the money is gone, Black and Brown families are in the same exact place, if not worse.

But a lot of other folks got rich.

Everyone gets paid, and the intended beneficiaries might get a crumb, or a temporary pass on the ghetto line.  But no answers, no structural changes.  And your millions are enabling the City.  They can limp ahead promising to close the digital divide, while having a plan which relies on families paying broadband companies.  Something we know will create broadband haves and broadband have nots.  Those who can pay and those who can’t.  And because your parent can’t pay, you can’t access school.  Is this the system we want?

Meanwhile, folks will ride out their terms claiming victory, but in 2 years when the money is gone—our families got nothing.  The City will come back looking for another 10 million.  

The same Black and Brown kids will be locked outside the virtual schoolhouse, and their families sitting on the outside of most opportunities.

Moreover, it really doesn’t have to be this way.  Chicago, another big city with all the same problems is giving every student free high speed in phase 1 and moving it to every low income family in phase 2, this is free and its envisioned to be forever.

We Need FREE no strings attached internet

The misnamed Oakland Undivided campaign, promises “free or low cost internet” in its promotional materials.  The latest update from KQED, seemed to give up on the “free” part of “free or low cost” paraphrasing OUSD’s Curtis Sarickey who,

“added that the district will also provide high-speed broadband to some families at a subsidized rate.”

So “free or low cost” transformed into “some families” will get “a subsidized rate.”

@Jack, you probably aren’t struggling to pay your bills or feed your children, but many many of our families are.  Even before COVID half of Oakland families had missed essential utility payments in the prior year.  Now they have to add internet to that list of bills.  With getting their kid to school competing with groceries, the lights, medicine or phone. 

We are a rich city, in a rich area, in a rich state, we should never make our families engage in such choices.

It really doesn’t have to be this way.  So @Jack if you really want to help Oakland.  Don’t just give them your money with no strings, unless they promise no strings FREE internet, now and going forward.  One of Chicago’s key lessons, was the role of philanthropy in pushing the City to long term solutions.

Oakland does need you @Jack, but as a smart investor in our community and not an enabler.  Please reconsider the terms of your donation.

(Please join our 30k plus supporters including Arne Duncan and Jeb Bush and join our Access Denied show, which airs every Friday at 9 Pacific. The #Internetforall movement needs you and this is absolutely doable.)

What do you think?

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