The Oakland Ed Week in Review 6/15/24-6/21/24 

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 prepares for its groundbreaking youth voter initiative this November, marking a pivotal moment post-Measure QQ’s 2020 passage. Juneteenth celebrations at the Oakland Museum of California underscore the city’s commitment to Black history education amidst national challenges. Concurrently, Ayesha Curry’s foundation faces setbacks from vandalism while building a school garden, highlighting community resilience amid local educational efforts.

In the Greater Bay Area | San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) grapples with potential state intervention due to fiscal mismanagement and academic issues, with half of its school board seats up for election. Berkeley’s closure of Longfellow Middle School due to structural damage exposes ongoing challenges in school infrastructure maintenance. Additionally, local schools’ disregard for California recycling laws reveals broader issues in regulatory enforcement and environmental education.

Throughout the State of California |  California’s $1 billion investment in college savings accounts aims to enhance statewide educational access amid ongoing debates over school funding reform. Allegations of misused funds for arts education prompt state investigations, while recall elections in Sunol underscore statewide ideological divisions impacting local educational policies.

Across the Nation |  Teachers nationwide confront increased stress and low pay exacerbated by pandemic challenges and disparities in educational resources. Black and Hispanic educators, in particular, express heightened intentions to leave the profession, highlighting systemic inequities. Louisiana’s push to mandate Ten Commandments display in public schools ignites constitutional debates on religious freedom and separation of church and state, reflecting national discussions on education policy and cultural norms.

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


Oakland passed a historic youth voter measure in 2020. Will teens finally cast their first votes this year?

What’s happening: After passing a measure in 2020, Oakland’s 16 and 17 year-olds still await being able to exercise their voting rights in school board elections this November. The implementation of Measure QQ still faces technical and legal hurdles, with a push from youth leaders and community allies.

Why it matters: Successful implementation could make Oakland a national model for youth voting initiatives, inspiring other cities to follow suit. Youth voter turnout could significantly impact school board elections, with four seats up for grabs in the upcoming November elections.

What’s next: Oakland City Council must finalize the ordinance, and various agreements need to be enacted by local governments and school districts.

Notable quote: “Students are driving, they have jobs while they’re in school, they’re working towards their future. That shows they aren’t naive.” –  Cristal Barroso, rising junior at Oakland High School 

By Ashley McBride for The Oaklandsider

Nonprofit aims to bring opportunity to East Oakland

What’s happening: The Black Cultural Zone celebrates a milestone in developing Liberation Park, aiming to revitalize East Oakland with new opportunities. The project includes a market hall, small business spaces, and affordable housing, funded partially by a $1 million donation from Wells Fargo.

Why it matters: This initiative addresses the long-term effects of redlining and resource deprivation, fostering economic growth and community engagement in a historically divested area. Liberation Park exemplifies a broader effort to repair and empower underfunded communities, promoting economic wealth while preserving cultural heritage.

What’s next: Black Cultural Zone is close to reaching its $50 million funding goal, with ongoing support from local council members ensuring the project’s completion.

Notable quote: “We are who we have been waiting for. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. I feel honored to do this work.” – Carolyn “CJ” Johnson, Black Cultural Zone CEO 

By Velena Jones for NBC Bay Area News

Oakland celebrates Juneteenth amid attacks on education about Black history

What’s happening:  The Oakland Museum of California hosted “Hella Juneteenth: The Cookout,” featuring live music and soul food. This event drew hundreds of residents, leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs.

Why it matters: Juneteenth marks the emancipation of enslaved people and recognizes the ongoing impacts of slavery on Black Americans. It highlights the need for racial justice and serves as a reminder of the struggle for civil rights. The commemoration occurs amidst ongoing attacks on education about Black history. Since 2021, 18 states have passed laws restricting the teaching of Black history and institutionalized racism, affecting the way events like Juneteenth are taught in schools.

Notable quote: “It’s important to me that they see their history, and also how it’s inspired different revolutionary movements around the world,” – Caroline Washington, Visitor

By Natalie Hanson | Courthouse News

In other Oakland News & Happenings…

  • Oakland school garden built by Stephen, Ayesha Curry’s foundation vandalized By ABC7 Bay City News
  • California school district makes major decision for its bus fleet, and parents are excited: ‘A huge win for the Oakland community’ By Juliana Marin | MSN

The Bay Area

SF school board is on the verge of a new political war

What’s happening: SFUSD faces potential state intervention due to financial mismanagement, high absenteeism rates, and slow academic reforms, threatening nearly 50,000 students.  California officials have granted fiscal appointees veto power over spending due to a $421mn deficit, prompting discussions of school closures and mergers to stabilize finances. An alliance of “moderate” candidates has formed, who, despite criticism, emphasize their newfound cooperation with incumbent Matt Alexander & union-backed strategies.

Why it matters: With 4 out of 7 school board seats up for election, there’s potential for a transformative shift towards fiscal responsibility amid political turmoil & dissatisfaction among parents. This alliance seeks to avoid divisive elections, consolidate power, potentially bringing stability but is also sparking controversy & distrust among parent groups critical of the candidates’ decisions.This development underscores ongoing challenges in balancing educational priorities with fiscal accountability amidst political divisions & community expectations.

Notable quote: “They betrayed our trust,” – Siva Raj, co-founder of SF Guardians, the parent group that spearheaded the 2022 recall of board members 

By Emily Hoeven | San Francisco Chronicle

An unsafe condition’: After dry rot forces red-tagging of Longfellow Middle School, campus will relocate for the next two years

What’s happening: Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley will be closed for at least two years due to severe dry rot damage threatening the building’s structural integrity. Classes will be relocated to Berkeley Adult School, located about a mile and a half north of Longfellow’s campus. This incident follows a similar relocation of North Berkeley’s Oxford Elementary School in 2020 due to safety issues, underscoring ongoing challenges in maintaining school infrastructure.

What’s next: Structural engineers are designing repair plans, which will be submitted to the Division of the State Architect. The district anticipates a two-year reconstruction period but will provide more accurate timelines once plans are approved.  The district is accepting suggestions for more questions from the community that can be submitted via this Google form.

Notable quote: “The supports of this building are crumbling and have created an unsafe condition,” – Salita Mitchell, Principal

By Annie Sciacca | Berkeleyside and catch additional coverage by Ryan Mense for KRON4 News

In other Bay Area News…

The State of California 

California School District Finds a Way to Bring Absent Kids Back to Class

What’s happening: Alvord Unified School District in California has implemented a technology-based solution to address chronic absenteeism among students.  By hiring SchoolStatus to track attendance and communicate with parents, Alvord Unified has freed up staff to provide direct support to families.

Why it matters: Improved attendance rates are crucial as state funding for school districts is tied to enrollment and attendance, impacting educational resources.

Notable quote: “We like to say we’re creating a culture of achievement, starting with creating a culture of showing up…  It starts with notifying parents in a timely, consistent manner, with positive messaging in their family’s home language.” – Grace Spencer, attendance expert at SchoolStatus

By Daisy Nguyen for KQED News

California prepares to launch first phase of new education data system

What’s happening: California is launching the first phase of its Cradle-to-Career Data System (C2C), aiming to unify educational and social service data across the state. This initiative represents a shift towards comprehensive data integration from previous siloed approaches, potentially positioning California as a national leader in education data management. 

Why it matters: Historically, California’s approach to education data has been criticized for its fragmented systems, hindering comprehensive program evaluation and improvement. The rollout of C2C is expected to provide valuable insights for students, educators, policymakers, and researchers. It includes plans for interactive dashboards that will display aggregated data on student demographics, educational outcomes, and teacher demographics, among other factors. This transparency aims to inform decision-making and improve educational strategies statewide.

The bigger picture: With the C2C initiative, California seeks to catch up with other states that have already established robust longitudinal data systems. The project’s success hinges on effective data sharing agreements among 16 participating entities, including educational institutions and state departments.

What’s next: As the system launches, California anticipates enhanced capabilities such as query builders and expanded data access for researchers. The state is committed to ongoing community engagement to ensure the data system meets public needs and expectations.

Notable quote: “This is an exciting moment because we are right on the cusp of seeing the value of connecting these data in one place,”  “We are going to see very soon the value in individual data providers sharing their data. And that will result in these two dashboards that are coming online very soon.” –  Christopher Nellum, executive director | Education Trust-West, a social justice and advocacy organization. 

By Diana Lambert | Ed Source

In Related Coverage:  Lack of reliable education data hamstrings California lawmakers and the public By Diana Lambert | Ed Source

Los Angeles schools ban students from using cell phones, social media on campuses

What’s happening: Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has banned cellphone and social media use for over 429,000 students during school days. The ban, prompted by concerns over social media’s negative effects, requires updated policies within 120 days, involving locked pouches or cell phone lockers.

Why it matters: The move addresses the growing mental health crisis among youth linked to excessive social media use, aiming to improve student well-being and classroom management. This ban reflects broader national efforts to mitigate the adverse impacts of social media on children’s mental health, paralleling similar legislative actions.

What’s next: LAUSD will finalize and implement new cell phone policies by the spring semester of the 2024-2025 school year, incorporating expert and community input.

Notable quote: “Managing student use of smartphones as a classroom teacher is now more like running a nonstop marathon. It takes a lot of energy and it’s really hard to keep up.” – Jessica Quindel, math teacher at Venice High School

By Yi-Jin Yu ABC7 | Good Morning America

In related coverage:  

Sacramento City Unified has failed special education students for years, grand jury finds

What’s happening: A grand jury report criticizes Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) for long-term failures in supporting its 7,000 special education students. The report highlights years of neglect and inadequate intervention, with issues confirmed by California Department of Education (CDE) findings.

Why it matters: These failures disproportionately impact students of color and segregate special education students, undermining their educational opportunities. The grand jury’s findings underscore systemic issues in special education, reflecting broader challenges in ensuring equitable education for all students.

What’s next: SCUSD must implement 13 recommended changes by January, including integrating special education into the general education program.

Notable quote: “The notion that we are failing to provide appropriate educational services to our most vulnerable students and those with disabilities is unacceptable to every educator and administrator in Sacramento City Unified. The report is a sobering reminder that our students and families deserve better and we must do better by them,” – district’s statement 

By Ashley Sharp for CBS13 News

In other California News…

Across The Nation

Teachers report lower pay, higher stress than other working adults | Black & Hispanic teachers were more likely to say they intend to leave their jobs by the end of the 2023-24 school year

What’s happening: A recent Rand Corp. survey revealed that teachers in early 2024 reported working significantly longer hours — an average of 53 hours per week — while earning approximately $18,000 less in base pay compared to other professionals. Twice as many teachers reported frequent job-related stress compared to their counterparts, with even higher rates among women teachers. Additionally, only 36% of teachers considered their base pay adequate, contrasting with 51% of other professionals.

Why it matters: Teacher well-being, pay issues, and high turnover rates have been persistent challenges in K-12 education, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite efforts to boost pay through initiatives like bonuses and raises funded by pandemic relief funds, concerns remain about the sustainability of the teaching profession, particularly among Black and Hispanic teachers.  Policies aimed solely at raising pay may not suffice without addressing broader issues such as workload, administrative burdens, and classroom management challenges that contribute significantly to teacher stress and dissatisfaction.

Notable quote: “Our data raise questions about the sustainability of the profession for Black teachers and female teachers in particular, despite stabilization of teacher well-being at pre-pandemic levels.” – Sy Doan, lead author of the Rand report,

By Naaz Modan | K12 Dive

In Related Coverage: Teachers to Congress: We Shouldn’t Have to Work Second Jobs By Libby Stanford | Ed Week

Louisiana Ten Commandments law could gain traction with Supreme Court

What’s happening: Louisiana passed a law mandating that public schools display the Ten Commandments in classrooms, potentially challenging the constitutional separation of church and state. The law argues that the Ten Commandments are foundational to state and national governance, a view contested by critics who argue they are religious, not secular, texts.

Why it matters: Legal experts fear the law could lead to a Supreme Court case that revisits and potentially overturns the 1980 decision prohibiting the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms due to concerns about government promotion of religion.

What’s next: The law is likely to face legal challenges that could escalate to the Supreme Court, where the current majority has shown a willingness to expand religious expression in public settings, as seen in recent decisions.

The bigger picture: The debate hinges on interpretations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which historically aimed to prevent government endorsement of religion, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson’s metaphorical “wall of separation.”

Notable quote: “My best guess is that this Supreme Court would say that the Establishment Clause is not violated unless there is coercion, and that posting the Ten Commandments is not coercive,” said Ira Lupu, who teaches constitutional law at George Washington University. He said he does not want the court to discard its 1980 decision “but I fear this is where we are heading.”

By Bob Egelko | San Francisco Chronicle

In Related Coverage:  Civil liberty groups vow to fight Louisiana’s Ten Commandments displays in schools By Kara Arundel | K12 Dive

Senate education committee debates federal role in boosting teacher pay

What’s happening: The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions recently convened to discuss bipartisan efforts to address teacher pay and shortages, amidst concerns over declining student achievement and pandemic-induced learning losses. Senators from both sides of the aisle acknowledged the critical need to bolster teacher salaries, although opinions varied on how best to achieve this goal. Senator Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, expressed reservations about federally mandated minimum teacher salaries, contrasting with Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who advocated for a national starting salary of $60,000.Witnesses highlighted diverse solutions, from state-level initiatives like Maryland’s Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to local grow-your-own programs aimed at supporting aspiring teachers from within their communities.

Why it matters: The debate underscores broader issues within education, including teacher recruitment and retention challenges exacerbated by low pay and demanding work conditions. 

Notable quote: “If kids are going to get a good start to life, open the doors. Let’s have decent-paid teachers, and let’s not worry about the cost of that,” – Senator Bernie Sanders 

By Anna Mero | K12 Dive

Violence prevention programs in school are one way to keep kids safe, experts say

What’s happening: In the aftermath of a student’s death, experts emphasize the importance of violence prevention programs in schools to keep students safe.  Garfield High School in Seattle is grappling with the loss of a student, Amarr Murphy-Paine, who was shot while trying to break up a fight. This incident has intensified the community’s focus on preventing future violence through school safety measures and community support.

Why it matters: Programs like the Alternative to Violence Project offer workshops that build self-confidence and problem-solving skills. Experts argue that these lessons should start early in a student’s education rather than being introduced in high school or after a tragedy occurs.

Prevention programs that teach students interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, and social-emotional learning from a young age can help reduce violence and improve student safety.

Notable quote: “Every time this happens, I feel like I haven’t done enough or we are too slow,” – Roger Kluck, director of the Alternative to Violence Project

By Claire Bryan | The Seattle Times – Tribune News Service | East Bay Times

In other National News…

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