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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.



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.)


Oakland Post: Week of May 24 – 30, 2023

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May 24 – 30, 2023



The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May 24 - 30, 2023

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Rise in Abductions of Black Girls in Oakland Alarms Sex-Trafficking Survivors

Nola Brantley of Nola Brantley Speaks states, “America’s wider culture and society has consistently failed to address the abduction and kidnapping of Black girls in Oakland and across the country, and this lack of concern empowers and emboldens predators.”



Nola Brantley and Sarai Smith-Mazariegos
Nola Brantley and Sarai Smith-Mazariegos

By Tanya Dennis

Within the last 30 days there have been seven attempted kidnappings or successful abductions of Black girls in Oakland.

Survivors of human trafficking who are now advocates are not surprised.

Nor were they surprised that the police didn’t respond, and parents of victims turned to African American community-based organizations like Adamika Village and Love Never Fails for help.

Advocates say Black and Brown girls disappear daily, usually without a blip on the screen for society and government officials.

Perhaps that will change with a proposed law by state Senator Steven Bradford’s Senate Bill 673 Ebony Alert, that, if passed, will alert people when Black people under the age of 26 go missing.

According to the bill, Black children are disproportionately classified as “runaways” in comparison to their white counterparts which means fewer resources are dedicated to finding them.

Nola Brantley of Nola Brantley Speaks states, “America’s wider culture and society has consistently failed to address the abduction and kidnapping of Black girls in Oakland and across the country, and this lack of concern empowers and emboldens predators.”

Brantley, a survivor of human trafficking has been doing the work to support child sex trafficking victims for over 20 years, first as the director for the Scotlan Youth and Family Center’s Parenting and Youth Enrichment Department at Oakland’s DeFremery Park, and as one of the co-founders and executive director of Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY, Inc.)

“It really hit home in 2010,” said Brantley, “before California’s Welfare Institution Code 300 was amended to include children victimized by sex trafficking.”

Before that law was amended, she had to vehemently advocate for Black and Brown girls under the age of 18 to be treated as victims rather than criminalized.

Brantley served hundreds of Black and Brown girls citing these girls were victims so they would be treated as such and offered restorative services. “To get the police to take their disappearances seriously and file a report almost never happened,” she said.

Then Brantley received a call from the Board of Supervisors regarding a “special case.”  A councilman was at the meeting, as well as a member of former Alameda County Board Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s Office who had called Brantley to attend.

“The child’s parents and the child were there also.  They requested that I give my full attention to this case.  The girl was white and there was no question of her victimization,” Brantley said.

Brantley felt conflicted that of all the hundreds of Black and Brown girls she’d served, none had ever received this type of treatment.

Her eyes were opened that day on how “they” move, therefore with the recent escalation of kidnapping attempts of Black girls, Brantley fears that because it’s happening to Black girls the response will not be taken seriously.

Councilmember Treva Reid

Councilwoman Treva Reid

“I thank Councilwoman Treva Reid and Senator Steven Bradford (D) for pushing for the passing of the Ebony Alert Bill across the state so that the disappearance of Black girls will be elevated the same as white girls. We’ve never had a time when Black girls weren’t missing.  Before, it didn’t matter if we reported it or if the parents reported the police failed to care.”

Senator Steven Bradford

Senator Steven Bradford

Sarai S-Mazariegos, co-founder of M.I.S.S.S.E.Y, and founder and executive director of Survivors Healing, Advising and Dedicated to Empowerment (S.H.A.D.E.) agrees with Brantley.

“What we are experiencing is the effects of COVID-19, poverty and a regressive law that has sentence the most vulnerable to the sex trade,” S-Mazariegos said. “We are seeing the lack of equity in the community, the cause and consequence of gender inequality and a violation of our basic human rights. What we are seeing is sexual exploitation at its finest.”

Both advocates are encouraged by Bradford’s Ebony Alert.

The racism and inequity cited has resulted in the development of an underground support system by Brantley, S-Mazariegos and other community-based organizations who have united to demand change.

Thus far they are receiving support from Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, and Oakland City Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas and Reid of the second and seventh districts respectively.

For more information, go to

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The Case Against SB357: Black, Vulnerable and Trafficked

on April 25, the committee approved Senate Bill 14 which would make human trafficking of minors a felony and strikable offense forcing exploiters to serve 80% of their sentence.



Nola Brantley is the co-founder of MISSSEY. Photo courtesy of Nola Brantley.
Nola Brantley is the co-founder of MISSSEY. Photo courtesy of Nola Brantley.

PART 8 – Come Back to Humanity

Although California Senate Bill 357 was intended to alleviate arrests of willing sex workers under anti-loitering laws, The Black, Vulnerable and Exploited series has established that passing SB 357 and other similar legislation harms Black communities, one of the most vulnerable and traumatized groups in America.

Over the past several weeks, overwhelming evidence against SB 357 has been presented showing why sex trafficking disproportionately impacts the Black community and how decriminalizing sex buying and exploitation will further harm vulnerable Black communities.

By Tanya Dennis and Vanessa Russell

One year and one day after Blair Williams had killed herself by walking into traffic on a busy freeway, her sister, Brianna Williams, testified before the California Senate Public Safety Committee on the horrors of sex-trafficking.

Soon after, on April 25, the committee approved Senate Bill 14 which would make human trafficking of minors a felony and strikable offense forcing exploiters to serve 80% of their sentence.

Passed with bi-partisan support in the committee, the bill means a lot to people who have been trafficked as it shows that the punishment for trafficking will be equal to the crime.

Currently, exploiters who receive 10 years for trafficking a minor may be able to get out in as little as two years. This practice of letting someone out after selling a child has created apathy among survivors who wonder if anyone understands the pain and torture they endure. The unanimous acceptance of this bill in committee is helping survivors to feel protected and valuable.

Led by Senator Aisha Wahab, the committee, which included senators Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, Steven Bradford, Senator Scott D. Wiener and Oakland’s Nancy Skinner, unanimously passed the bill written by Senator Shannon Grove.

At the hearing, Brianna Williams, a Black 28-year-old woman who was sex-trafficked in Oakland at the age of 13, shared the story of her sister Blair, who was terrorized, raped, and tortured by her exploiter.

Suffering a mental break, Blair walked onto a freeway where she was instantly killed on April 24, 2022.

Williams described Blair as a beautiful young lady, who was an avid reader and creative who loved to play with her niece and nephews and aspired to be an attorney. Blair died at the age of 23. Many senators teared up as they contemplated the torture Blair endured.

At the age of 17, Williams was able to exit with the help of nonprofits and churches who invested in her life, providing workforce development, education, mentoring, and legal help.

To address the harm that is being done to vulnerable people such as Black girls, anti-trafficking organizations are asking leaders and legislators and even proponents of full decriminalization for sex work to ‘come back to humanity’ and reconsider an ‘equity model’ that decriminalizes the exploited but maintains accountability for the buyers and exploiters.

The equity model would also provide funded exit services including mental health, housing, workforce development, and legal services for the exploited. These services would provide an opportunity for the trafficked to start again, an opportunity that 76% of women, men and transgendered people are asking for.

However, making buyers and exploiters accountable does not mean applying blanket life sentences.

Human trafficking cannot be ‘criminalized’ away, supporters of the new bill say, and instead they call for thoughtfulness and empathy regarding the intentions of those involved and ask tough questions.

Many exploiters have been abused and groomed into becoming exploiters in the same way the exploited are.

There are early intervention diversion programs that can help first-time sex buyers and exploiters take ownership for the harm they have caused, process the root of their behavior, and begin to heal and change.

Giving buyers and exploiters a platform to be accountable and make amends improves their lives, the lives of the families they are also harming, and hopefully bring some healing to the harmed.

Nola Brantley, a survivor, co-founder of Motivating, Inspiring Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY), and CEO of Nola Brantley Speaks says, “As service providers, we must unite and support one another because this is very important and hard. We can’t do it alone. We need each other and the community needs us to be in solidarity!”

For more information, go to ResearchGate and Layout 1 (

To get involved, join Violence Prevention Coalition for a City Wide Peace Summit on June 24th from 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. at Laney College in Oakland. To register, go to

Tanya Dennis serves on the Board of Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) and series co-author Vanessa Russell of “Love Never Fails Us” and member of OFH.

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