The Oakland Ed Week in Review 6/1/24-6/7/24 

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  

We’re back with our roundup of education news from around The Town, the Bay Area, state, and nation for your weekend reading. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices.  

Here’s what’s been going on: 

Here in Oakland | Oakland faces SAT testing inequities due to Wi-Fi issues affecting 1,400 students and pursues a police-free school initiative influenced by the Black Organizing Project, showing mixed results. The city also provides over 100,000 free summer meals for children and adults with disabilities to bridge the nutrition gap during school closures.

In the Greater Bay Area | Bay Area schools grapple with significant financial losses from student absences, prompting calls for funding reform. San Jose’s Alum Rock School District undergoes a leadership change due to transparency and closure issues. A local school ignores California recycling laws, highlighting enforcement challenges.

Throughout the State of California | California invests $1 billion in college savings accounts for students, though many families remain unaware. Recall elections in Sunol over school policies reflect broader ideological divides. The state scrutinizes potential misuse of $1 billion allocated for arts education, while pre-K enrollment hits record levels post-pandemic.

Across the Nation | One of Dirk’s lasting causes, the right to internet, needs support as Congress is urged to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program to prevent millions from losing internet access. Voucher programs increasingly fund religious schools, raising church-state separation concerns. Efforts to address pandemic learning setbacks show slow progress, especially for marginalized students. A Massachusetts teacher faces repercussions for a mock slave auction, spotlighting challenges in teaching about slavery.

What did we miss?  Hit us up in the comments below: 


Oakland’s canceled SAT debacle points to broader testing and equity concerns statewide

What’s happening:  Wi-Fi issues led to the cancellation of the SAT for about 1,400 Oakland students. The reduced number of SAT sites since the pandemic forces students to travel far for tests, highlighting testing inequities especially as universities reinstate SAT requirements despite previous trends to de-emphasize it.

Why it matters:  The incident underscores a shortage of SAT testing sites in California, exacerbating challenges for students in underserved areas. The reliance on strong Wi-Fi for digital tests exposes systemic infrastructure issues, particularly in urban areas like East Oakland.

What’s next:  Affected students await rescheduling and refunds, while state-level battles over broadband access continue to impact digital education equity.

Notable quote:  “Student demand has exceeded capacity for SAT weekend administrations in California’s Bay Area because of a shortage of high schools and other institutions willing to serve as SAT Weekend test centers.” –  Holly Stepp, College Board representative

By Shomik Mukherjee for The Mercury News

In related coverage:  After Oakland SAT Debacle, Student Petitions East Bay High School to Host Test By Sydney Johnson for KQED News

Going police-free is tough and ongoing, Oakland schools find

What’s happening:  Oakland Unified School District is navigating challenges and successes in its pursuit of a police-free environment, focusing on restorative justice and in-house staff for conflict resolution. Despite a significant drop in police calls, discrepancies in reported data highlight ongoing issues in accurately tracking incidents and ensuring staff adherence to new protocols.

Why it matters:  This initiative aims to reduce student arrests and create a safer, more supportive school atmosphere, setting a precedent for other districts considering similar policies.

What’s next:  The district continues to refine its approach and awaits evaluation results from a national study in August to assess the effectiveness of its police-free policy.

Notable quote:  “We’re not in a place where we can have completely police-free schools. That is our goal and what we’re working towards, but unfortunately, there are times when we do need police support,” -Misha Karigaca, Oakland Unified director of student support and safety.

By Monica Velez for Ed Source

How Black Parents Got Cops Out of Oakland Schools

What’s happening:  Oakland Unified School District, influenced by the Black Organizing Project (BOP) – a group of students, parents, teachers, and allies – removed police officers from schools, implementing the George Floyd Resolution for Police-Free Schools after a decade-long campaign. Initial results show positive outcomes, such as reduced suspensions for physical violence and fewer police calls. 

Why it matters: This change aims to address systemic racism and the criminalization of Black and Brown students, promoting safer and more supportive school environments.  This initiative is part of a national trend to eliminate police presence in schools, with cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver considering similar measures to advance racial equity and student well-being.

What’s next:  Continued efforts are needed to address underlying biases and disparities in disciplinary actions, ensuring all students benefit equally from the new policies.

Notable quote:  “With no police presence on campuses teachers, admin, and students have been able to exercise healthy alternatives to de-escalate situations with the use of the police-free guidance, problem solve conflict, and start to build meaningful relationships with each other.” – GFR Report

By Malaika Parker for Yes Magazine

Map: Where Oakland kids can get free food this summer

What’s happening:  Oakland will provide over 100,000 free summer meals to youth at various community sites, including libraries and recreation centers. Free meals are available for all children 18 and under and adults with disabilities enrolled in school programs.

What else to know:  Families can find nearby food distribution sites using the CA Meals for Kids app; some locations are exclusive to enrolled program participants.

Why it matters: The summer meal program bridges the gap left by school closures, ensuring continuous nutritional support for children and adults with disabilities during summer preventing food insecurity among Oakland children who rely on school meals.

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandside

In other Oakland news & happenings…

The Bay Area

Photo Credit: Mercury News

How much are student absences costing Bay Area schools?

What’s happening: Bay Area schools grapple with significant financial losses due to student absences, totaling millions annually. California’s funding model penalizes districts for absences, disproportionately affecting socioeconomically disadvantaged areas and exacerbating equity gaps.

Why it matters: Chronic absenteeism reflects broader challenges in education funding and accountability, prompting calls for systemic reform. Declining enrollment and chronic absenteeism exacerbate budget shortfalls amid a $27.6 billion state deficit.

What’s next:  Senator Portantino proposes shifting from attendance-based to enrollment-based funding, potentially reallocating billions for truancy efforts.

Notable quote:  “Average daily attendance is perhaps the most inequitable method used to fund public education,” – Anthony Portantino, State Senator 

By Molly Gibbs for The Mercury News

Another shakeup at Alum Rock School District in San Jose

What’s happening: The Alum Rock School District in San Jose undergoes a leadership change, replacing president Corina Herrera-Lorea with Linda Chavez. Lack of transparency and school closures prompt the board’s decision.

What else to know: Lorea defends the school closures, citing financial constraints, but acknowledges the need for community involvement in the decision-making process.

The bigger picture: This shakeup reflects broader issues of accountability and community engagement in local education governance.

Notable quote: “This meeting was called less than 24 hours ago… So, this was done and so I was taking down for my board presidency officer.” – Corina Herrera-Lorea

By Yomara Lopez for NBC Bay Area News

In other Bay Area news & happenings…

The State of California 

Raising Kids in California? They May Have College Savings Accounts You Don’t Know About

What’s happening: California invests $1 billion in college savings for students, yet many families remain unaware of the funds. Despite significant investments, only a fraction of eligible families claim funds, highlighting the need for improved awareness and accessibility.

Why it matters: Misunderstood funds may hinder equitable access to higher education, and impact students’ future opportunities and financial security.

What’s next: Advocates call for enhanced outreach and community involvement to ensure families utilize available resources effectively.

Notable quote: “Every cent counts… Having an extra $500 would be so helpful and will definitely encourage me to attend college even more.” – Evelyn Garcia Romero, a senior at Calistoga Junior-Senior High School

By Jacqueline Munis for CalMatters

California Recall Elections Test Strength of Conservative School Board Movement

What’s happening: A recall election in Sunol, CA, divides the community over flag policies and LGBTQ+ inclusion. Similar recall efforts target conservative policies in other districts, sparking contentious debates.

Why it matters: This recall reflects broader battles over conservative school board policies and ideological divisions, as well as represents a shift in political focus toward local education issues.

Notable quote:   “Democrats need to be aware because recall campaigns are very expensive…” – Ann Crosbie, Democratic activist and former school board member in Fremont

By Guy Marzorati for KQED News

California Spent Nearly $1 Billion to Boost Arts Education. Are Schools Misspending It?

What’s happening: California’s $1 billion arts education boost faces scrutiny as concerns arise over potential misallocation, potentially undermining the initiative’s intent. Districts weigh reallocating funds amid budget uncertainties, sparking debate over adhering to initiative goals versus addressing financial constraints.

Why it matters: Misuse risks exacerbating arts education disparities, going against the essence of Proposition 28’s goal to broaden access.

What’s next: Advocates call for state oversight, urging proof of increased arts staff hiring and transparent expenditure plans to ensure accountability.

Notable quote: “The intent of Prop. 28 is to have more arts in schools,”… “We’re concerned that’s not happening everywhere. If people found out one school was offering math, for example, and another school wasn’t, they’d be outraged. That’s what’s happening with the arts.” – said Abe Flores, deputy director of policy and programs at Create CA, which advocates for arts education in California.

By Carolyn Jones for Cal Matters

In other California news & happenings…

Across The Nation

Opinion: Millions are Set to Lose Their Internet Access. Congress Must Act

What’s happening:  Millions of low-income Americans risk losing internet access as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has run out of funding. Over 75% of ACP users might change or drop their internet service, with military families, seniors, and rural residents being the hardest hit.

Why it matters: The loss of internet subsidies affects essential functions like work, education, and healthcare, disproportionately impacting vulnerable groups and affecting overall economic stability, with potential annual losses of $10 billion in wages.

What’s next: Congress needs to act by appropriating more funds; the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act proposes an additional $7 billion.

By Christina Arana for The Mercury News

Most US students are recovering from pandemic-era setbacks, but millions are making up little ground

What’s happening: Despite efforts to address pandemic learning setbacks, millions of US students, especially marginalized groups, are struggling to catch up.

Why it matters: While some states allocate additional funding and implement tutoring programs, many struggle to accelerate improvement amid looming financial crises and the expiration of federal relief funds. Slow and uneven progress in educational recovery exacerbates existing disparities and could have long-term consequences for students’ academic and socioeconomic outcomes.

Notable quote: “The recovery is not finished, and it won’t be finished without state action,” – Thomas Kane, Harvard economist

By Collin Binkley for The Associated Press via NBC Bay Area News

Billions in taxpayer dollars now go to religious schools via vouchers

What’s happening: Voucher programs across the United States are channeling billions of taxpayer dollars to religious schools, blurring the line between public education and religious institutions, raising concerns about the separation of church and state. The growth of voucher programs has been particularly pronounced in GOP-led states.

Why it matters: The expansion of voucher programs reflects a broader trend toward government-sponsored religion in public schools, raising legal, ethical, and financial questions about the use of public funds for religious education and its impact on public school resources. Critics argue that this trend undermines the integrity of public education and disproportionately benefits religious institutions.

The bigger picture: The expansion of voucher programs reflects broader shifts in the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the separation of church and state, with recent rulings expanding the use of public funds to support religious education. This trend has implications for the role of religion in public life and the allocation of public resources.

Notable quote: “We are, as a society, underwriting religion.” -Richard Katskee, a professor at Duke University School of Law, 

by Laura Meckler & Michelle Boorstein for The Washington Post

An early education rebound: After COVID disruptions, report shows pre-K enrollment hitting record levels

What’s happening: The state pre-K program in Lamar County, Mississippi, is experiencing high demand, with over 100 families on the waiting list. The program focuses on a balance of academics and social skills, with an emphasis on fostering a love of learning among preschoolers.

What else to know:  Enrollment in state pre-K programs nationwide reached record levels in the 2022-23 school year, following declines during the pandemic.  Mississippi has managed to increase pre-K enrollment while maintaining high quality standards, including requirements for teacher qualifications and health screenings. The state’s approach serves as a model for other states seeking to expand access to early childhood education without compromising on quality.

Notable quote: “The early childhood workforce has just been historically undervalued.” – Sara Mickelson, deputy secretary of New Mexico’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department. 

By Linda Jacobson for LA School Report

Teacher put on leave for holding mock slave auction, using racial slur 

What’s happening:  A Massachusetts teacher faces repercussions after organizing a mock slave auction and using a racial slur in a fifth-grade classroom. The school district has launched an investigation and implemented reforms, including professional development on culturally competent teaching methods, to prevent such incidents in the future.

What else to know:  Similar incidents have been reported nationwide, reflecting broader issues in history education and the need for comprehensive reforms to address historical trauma and racial sensitivity in classrooms.

The bigger picture: Teaching the history of slavery remains a contentious issue, exacerbated by political debates and legislative attempts to restrict curriculum content, further complicating efforts to provide accurate and empathetic education on this topic.

Notable quote:  “Many American schools and educators continue to have difficulty teaching the history of American slavery in an empathetic and sensitive way because our nation has not reckoned with this history in any meaningful way.” – Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers

By Niha Masih for The Washington Post

In other National news & happenings…

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