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California Voters Give Schools, Teachers Top Grades in Year-End Survey

However, on most issues in the survey, Democrats and Republicans generally disagreed. One notable issue was whether schools should spend more time teaching about the causes and consequences of racism and inequality.

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Back To School/ Shutterstock

Despite perceptions of the public’s widespread unhappiness with the slow reopening of California’s schools last spring, most voters surveyed, including parents, gave the highest marks in a decade of polling to the state’s public schools in general and their schools in particular.

However, on most issues in the survey, Democrats and Republicans generally disagreed. One notable issue was whether schools should spend more time teaching about the causes and consequences of racism and inequality.

At the same time, they also expressed worry about the effects of the pandemic on children and said they would strongly support various measures to accelerate student learning, including hiring counselors and providing intensive tutoring and summer school.

The independent, nonpartisan research center PACE and the USC Rossier School of Education released their ninth annual poll on education on July 8. The survey firm Tulchin Research solicited views of 2,000 registered California voters representative of the state’s demographics and party affiliation, with an oversampling of 500 parents with children under 18 living at home. Surveys were conducted in English and Spanish.

Researchers chose May, with schools winding down after a partial return to in-person instruction, because it enabled participants to reflect on the year and look ahead, said Heather Hough, PACE’s executive director. 

Given widespread news reports showing anger and mistrust toward schools, Hough said she expected more criticism. Instead, a record 38% of voters overall and 53% of parents gave A or B grades to schools statewide; 51% of voters and 61% of parents gave A or B to their local public schools.

One of the researchers characterized this as “grading on a curve,” Hough said, giving credit to schools for the efforts they made during a difficult year.

The disparity was wide among voters by party, however, with 29% of Republicans giving schools statewide an A or B and 41% giving a D or F, compared with 47% of Democrats giving an A or B and only 17% giving schools statewide a D or F. The rest gave schools a C.

The majority of voters and parents gave A or B to teachers and superintendents, and 69% of parents said they would encourage a young person to become a teacher, an increase from 60% from the last poll, which was taken pre-pandemic, in January 2020.

Voters were presented a list of the potential areas of concern because of the pandemic’s impact on students and asked to rate them 1 to 10, with 10 being “very important.” Voters overall cited students falling behind academically as the most pressing issue, with the impact on English learners and special education students a close second. Parents cited the impact on emotional and mental health as No. 1, which was third for all voters.

Voters’ experiences during the pandemic varied significantly by income, and, to an extent, by race and ethnicity. Confirming what other surveys have indicated, lower-income families were the hardest hit: for families earning under $35,000 per year, 37% said their income worsened and 14% said it improved during the pandemic; for families earning more than $150,000, it was the opposite: 30% said their income had improved and 17% said it worsened.

Asked to describe their children’s educational experience during the pandemic, 58% of families earning under $75,000 said it had gotten worse, compared with 48% of families earning more than $150,000; 39% of those earning more than $150,000 said it had gotten better, compared with 26% of families earning less than $35,000.

Divided on race and politics

California voters reflected the tensions nationally on issues of race and politics, though they downplayed the divisions locally: 78% said the state has become more divided politically, and 70% said the state has become more divided on matters of race. But slightly fewer than half said those political and racial tensions had increased locally.

Asked if the problem of discrimination and violence based on racial and ethnic differences has gotten worse, 69% said it had statewide while 48% said it had locally; 64% of Black voters said the problem has worsened, compared with 46% of non-Black voters.

Voters were given a dozen educational issues and were asked to rank their importance, from 1 to 10 (very important). The top issue was reducing gun violence in schools, although the rate of incidents is small nationally and in California, with 65% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans ranking it very important.

The next four issues, all closely ranked, were making college more affordable, improving special education services, reducing the teacher shortage and supporting struggling schools.  

More Democrats than Republicans designated the issues to be very important. On improving education funding, for example, 43% of Democrats ranked it very important, compared with 25% of Republicans. The one exception was improving school discipline; a third of Republicans ranked it very important, compared with a quarter of Democrats.

Asked whether more or less time should be spent on “grade-appropriate” lessons on racism and inequality, 39% of Democrats backed giving the issues much more time compared with 10% of Republicans, while 37% of Republicans and 3% of Democrats said there should be much less time.

“Many Californians support steps to acknowledge and address persistent inequities, in the curriculum and otherwise, but stark partisan differences portend ongoing conflict in the pursuit of these goals,” the authors of the poll concluded. Along with Hough, they were Julie Marsh, a professor of education policy at USC Rossier School of Education; Jeannie Myung, director of policy research at PACE; David Plank, a senior fellow at PACE, and Morgan Polikoff, an associate professor of education at the USC Rossier School of Education.

On other questions:

69% of voters support requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for school-age children, once approved by the FDA and medical exemptions are allowed; 43% strongly favor the idea. Strongest in support were Democrats, high-income earners and Asian American voters. Least supporting were Republicans, low-income earners and Black voters, although in all groups, there was a majority support.

71% of parents and 59% of all voters favored making online learning from home an option for all students in California public schools, even after the pandemic ends.

58% of voters, but only 49% of parents favor the resumption of standardized testing, but 43% of parents want testing either eliminated (18%) or reduced, such as once in elementary school and once in high school. (In spring 2020, the tests for most students were canceled, and in spring 2021, they were optional for districts.)

Bay Area

Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao Champions Public Safety Investments for Oakland

“My top priority is public safety, which means addressing violent crime, street safety, poverty, and homelessness. These budget amendments invest in our community and increase our Police Department’s ability to prevent and respond to violent crimes,” said Councilmember Sheng Thao, “These amendments will also protect our business corridors so Oaklanders can feel safe while they shop, and in turn, invest in our Oakland businesses.”

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San Francisco Bay Area Skyline; Photo Courtesy of Ronan Furuta via Unsplash

Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao, working with fellow councilmembers, community leaders, and city staff, won public safety investments for Oakland on July 26, including investments that align with the city’s reimagining public safety goals. The City Council unanimously approved her budget amendments, which included investments in:

  • Traffic Calming and Sideshow Prevention
  • Faster 911 Response
  • Restoring Foot Patrol officers in business corridors during the holiday season
  • Business District Ambassadors
  • Adding Public Restrooms near homeless encampments
  • Investments to job training and resources

“My top priority is public safety, which means addressing violent crime, street safety, poverty, and homelessness. These budget amendments invest in our community and increase our Police Department’s ability to prevent and respond to violent crimes,” said Councilmember Sheng Thao, “These amendments will also protect our business corridors so Oaklanders can feel safe while they shop, and in turn, invest in our Oakland businesses.”

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong thanked Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao and other council members for their vote and support with additional funding. “These funds will provide walking officers in our business districts across the city during this holiday season,” he said. “The funds allow us to restore much needed public safety services, walking officers, while our community and visitors shop across our city. The COVID-19  pandemic has touched many of our vulnerable communities and businesses; we must not let crime be the driver of this holiday season, we will have walking officers to ensure community safety. “
Councilmember Thao’s amendments included direct investments in West, Central, and East Oakland, including West Oakland community centers, Central Oakland traffic safety, and Oakland 911 response.

“These amendments also help address decades of divestment from our BIPOC communities in East Oakland. By bringing investments into street safety, beautification, and city services. It is important that we stay committed to equity for East Oakland. Our office made a point to work with Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor to bring these amendments forward and I thank them for their strong partnership in this work.”

These amendments were approved unanimously by the Oakland City Council as the final step in the fiscal year ‘21-‘23 two-year budget process. You can find a copy of the final amendments here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12LWbi8ty3SnNKX33pfUahz6n6agWXym-/view?usp=drivesdk

This report is courtesy of Oakland City Council Aide Brandon Harami.

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Bay Area

GETTING TO YES 

BAYSIDE BALL PARK OR WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

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Howard Terminal Courtesy Port of Oakland website

Arguably, development of Howard’s Terminal has been in the making for long time.  According to Councilmember Gallo, Oakland’s previous city officials Robert Bobb and Jerry Brown entertained development of Howard’s Terminal, for the Fishers and A’s, during their tenure as city manager and mayor respectively. 

Let’s be clear, the A’s initially pitched its development project at Howard’s Terminal as a Bayside Baseball Stadium, when in essence its project goal has always been a major condominium-housing and business development, along Oakland’s waterfront … the stadium was then and is now just the shinny thing.  Many argue the Coliseum site is more suited for a new stadium development, if that’s really what the A’s want. 

On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Oakland City Council held a special meeting to consider the Oakland A’s proposal submitted in April 2021; the A’s pressed Council for this special meeting so as to give the A’s an up or down vote on their proposal.  Council voted 6-1, with one abstention, not to support the A’s proposal as submitted.  Council did agree, however, to support the A’s project proposal with certain City amendments.   

Oakland City Council considered their vote to be a big win for Oakland.  On the other hand, A’s President, Dave Kaval, called the City Council’s vote “a swing and a miss.” Based upon the complexity of the pending issues, it appears more time – extended ending – will be necessary for both sides to get to a mutually beneficial yes. 

According to the A’s Kaval, progress has been made in negotiations but, the plan Council voted for on Tuesday “is not a business partnership that works for [A’s] us.”   Moreover, Kaval claims the A’s had not seen some of the amendments Oakland city staff presented to the City Council Tuesday morning before the council’s vote. 

Council-member Rebecca Kaplan said the City Council’s amendments addressed the A’s biggest concern, having to pay for offsite transportation, and infrastructure improvements. However, the A’s still could not agree with the city’s overall offer.   

 Also, the A’s waterfront development project proposal includes some 3000 units of condominium-housing, but the A’s proposal ignored adequate provisions for affordable housing.  The A’s wants the City to waive the A’s legal requirement to provide for affordable housing.  Oakland’s City Council determined that fact to a major sticking point. 

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who worked on the amendments with Vice Mayor Kaplan, said, “It’s (now) at the beginning of the eighth inning.”  As a matter of fact, Council advised the A’s to use Council’s just approved amended Term-Sheet as a road map for further negotiations. 

Following the City Council meeting, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the City and A’s are very close to an agreement, but Kaval said “in some ways it’s too early to say how close the two sides are.”  

Kaval expressed hope that the A’s can get the City Council vote on some terms his team could agree on before Council’s summer recess.  Council President Bas’, office said no council meetings are scheduled before the recess to further negotiate the A’s new waterfront proposal.  

 Negotiation between Oakland’s City Council and the Oakland A’s appears to be headed for extra innings.  The complexity of the issues and public reactions, after Tuesday’s Council vote, gives many citizens cause to pause and wonder if we are at the end of the seventh inning stretch or the bottom of the ninth; either way, getting to a mutually beneficial yes will require a walk-off hit. 

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Community

Walgreens Exiting East Oakland Because Medicare and Medicaid Customers Don’t Generate Enough ‘Green’ for $140 Billion Corporation

The councilmembers of District 7 and District 6 joined with more than 2,500 neighborhood petitioners to condemn the less than one month notice.

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Walgreens 8102 International Blvd, Oakland, Calif./Yellow Pages

Oakland City Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor announced that they will press Walgreen’s to abandon their plans to close their pharmacy by July 29 at 8102 International Boulevard.

The councilmembers of District 7 and District 6 joined with more than 2,500 neighborhood petitioners to condemn the less than one month notice.

Taylor and Reid pointed out that Walgreens’ lease still has six month remaining before its expiration in January 2022.

They denounced the abandonment of seniors, especially those who reside at Allen Temple Arms across the street from the pharmacy.

“We are disheartened that in the midst of the pandemic, with many health disparities in diagnoses and with the next available pharmacy located miles away, they are furthering the health crisis,” said Reid. “With all the nurses and medical personnel that patronize this pharmacy they were disrespected to hear of the closing by way of second-hand social media postings. We will continue to pursue this issue at the local, regional and national levels to find other ways to solve this problem.”

Taylor said Walgreens exacerbated the pain of the closing by giving the reason that the high percentage of low-income Medicare and Medicaid patients who get their prescriptions filled results in a lower profit margin for the corporation worth $140 billion. He also pointed out how they were making a mockery of their mission statement which is to “Champion the health and well-being of every community in America.”

Taylor and Reid presented the following fact sheet that answers the questions asked of Walgreens:

So why is Walgreens closing?…

  • The first reason they gave was the rent… After speaking with the property owner I learned that Walgreens asked for close to a 50% reduction of rent and to lock that in for double-digit years, something that the property owner couldn’t afford. In addition, I learned that Walgreens still has six months left on their lease during which they will continue paying their rent.  If Walgreens is obligated to pay its lease through January (even if it chooses not to renew that lease) why close six months early?
  • The second reason they gave was the ‘shrinkage’ – a portion of which is due to theft.  We know this is a problem across the state. The representatives from Walgreens that we talked to this morning admitted that the shrinkage rates due to theft are not as high as in San Francisco where they are closing stores.  This is a problem across the state – even to the point that Gov. (Gavin) Newsom just yesterday (July 22) signed into law a bill extending a program that allows the California Highway Patrol to operate regional task forces to fight organized retail theft with other law enforcement agencies.
  • The third reason that they gave is that the high percentage of Medicaid/ Medicare patients leads to lower profit margins because the state reimbursement is not as high as private insurance.  This reason squarely places low-income residents of California in the crosshairs of any corporate decision to close stores and reduce services.  I reject this rationale for a store closure – especially from a healthcare company where we know in a managed care environment, we must balance the higher profit services with the lower-profit services so that in aggregate we support all residents/ patients.
  • Taylor said, “I stand here today with my fellow Councilmember, Treva Reid, in whose district we stand and she and I represent districts and a population of residents who are often cast aside and marginalized. Districts that still suffer from the effects of institutionalized racism, redlining, white flight and the war on drugs. A true partnership to champion the health and well-being of every community does not occur when a unilateral decision is made to close a store without more than a few weeks’ notice through a sign being posted on a window alerting customers to the closure.

My office was not proactively engaged by Walgreens, and in fact I found out about this based on a Facebook post by a resident who took a picture of the sign.  The communication that came to me through a Walgreens District Manager was that the property owner was being unreasonable.”

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