Our elections work is racial equity work. We know that Oakland’s voter demographics do not reflect that of families with school age children. We know there are other powerful interest groups who spend money on elections and organize in order to keep things the way they are and to prevent the bold changes that families across our city are demanding. We also know this is rooted in structural racism: Oakland voters are more likely to be white, older, and higher income, while Oakland schools primarily serve Black and Brown and low-income students.
The GO community is bold and unapologetic about having Oakland’s most marginalized kids and families as our only focus. Lives are literally at stake when it comes to the quality of education being provided in our city. So we are fighting hard to win this election, and we’re proud of that. Our community has endorsed 5 candidates after a thorough vetting process that we believe will center the needs of students.
Some will try to make this election about everything but the students – they’ll seek to distract and divide Oaklanders, pitting parents against educators, or families who choose charter public schools against families who choose district schools. They’ll try to focus us on who paid for a campaign mailer and away from how only 1 in 3 Oakland children across our district and charter schools can read on grade level. At GO we know that this division only preserves the status quo and keeps things the same. This is unacceptable. Instead, at GO, we are solely focused on the interests of students – especially those who have long been denied the opportunities they deserve and we fight to change who holds power in order to shape the future. We reject the status quo that is failing too many families and we are proud to support candidates who do too.
With the pandemic only deepening inequality, the four open seats on the school board in November present us with a huge responsibility as adults responsible for children in our community. That is why we ran one of the most inclusive endorsement processes in the city, bringing together hundreds of diverse Oaklanders – parents, educators, and community leaders – who are often left out of decision-making – to decide which candidates to support. Our community members then volunteer thousands of hours of their time to talk to their neighbors about the candidates they are supporting and to get out the vote. Two in three people who participated in our 2020 endorsement process identify as people of color; many of them teach or send their students to schools in the flatlands. Of the 18 candidate endorsements that our community has made over the years,15 identify as people of color.
While strong school board members are critical, we also engage in elections in order to fight for more resources for our schools. GO has been organizing at the leading edge of every revenue-generating measure in Oakland schools for the past 12 years and this year we’re excited to support an important facilities bond for OUSD to ensure our students have safe learning spaces in which to thrive. This crucial advocacy for adequate education funding will only matter more as national leaders like Betsy DeVos unconscionably work to direct money away from our public schools.
We are grateful for the ways in which Oakland families and educators, community members, national and local foundations, individual grassroots and major donors, and partner organizations come together year after year to support this critical work through their time, their energy, their donations, and their unwavering belief that Oakland kids deserve to dream big. As of 2020, about 600 Oaklanders have made more than 4400 donations, which have helped hundreds of Oaklanders complete more than 1300 volunteer shifts in their communities.
The fact that it costs money to get your voice into the picture is not new. GO’s community joins other organizations like teachers’ unions, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Sierra Club who do electoral advocacy work, because we all know how much it matters to have great leaders making decisions for our students. What is relatively new are average parents, teachers, principals and community members having real choices and influence over the leadership that they want for their schools in Oakland.
Some have warned of a “COVID generation” that will be lost to this pandemic – that our current students will not survive the learning loss that has already developed or the large economic downturn that has already begun and their entire life trajectory will be derailed; a dream deferred. But we see a different reality for this generation. We see one with parents stepping up to the plate and refusing to let their children slip through the digital cracks of distance learning. We see talented, creative educators turning on their zoom cameras each day as they build new ways of reaching their students. We see committed school staff meeting the essential needs of families distributing meals and chromebooks to ensure every kid has a shot. Those are the Oaklanders who go with GO- the builders, the creators, the believers – and we are grateful to work alongside them every day – in this election and beyond.
We hope you’ll join us to fight for the education Oakland students deserve.