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Opinion: Can These Powerful Black Leaders Join Forces to Close the Achievement Gap for Black Children?



When California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the English language arts and math results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test last month, we found out that African-American students’ scores lagged behind the much higher marks their white, Asian and Hispanic peers obtained.

Statewide, just over 40 percent of all public school students met or exceeded standards in math and 51 percent were proficient in English.

Of those numbers, only 21 percent of African-American students were proficient in math, compared with 74 percent of Asian-American students, 54 percent of white students, and 29 percent of Hispanic students. In English, only 33 percent of African-American students were proficient. Compare that with 77 percent of Asian-American students 64 percent of white students, and 41 percent of Hispanic students.

Five years ago, California adopted the CAASPP assessment tests. Each year since then, our African-American student scores have ranked at the bottom of the results of all racial subgroups in the state.

During that time, the achievement gap between Black students and their white and Asian peers has seen only marginal improvement, while getting wider between our children and their Hispanic counterparts.

What gives?

Today, our key Education Leaders in California are African American. They are State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, ; President of the State Board of Education, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond; President of the California Teachers Association, E. Toby Boyd; Board Chair, California Charter School Association, Margaret Fortune and President California School Board Association, Emma Turner .

We need these leaders to come together to propose a functioning system that will guide those working hard to achieve results for African-American students in our state.

The achievement gap between African-American and white students was first acknowledged over 50 years ago in a 1966 federal government study called the Coleman Report. The United States Congress commissioned the report after it passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Since then, education researchers and practitioners have been hard at work trying to identify the causes and propose what can be done to address it. Despite decades of education reform efforts and billions of dollars spent in federal, state and local funding, the achievement gap persists.

Ronald Edmonds, the late Harvard education researcher, said 40 years ago, “We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”

To Edmonds and education experts like him, closing the achievement gap is absolutely solvable. The fact that little progress has been made to narrow it can be attributed more to the absence of political will than to any lack of social science research on the problem.

The social factors that contribute to the achievement gap and the actions necessary to close it have been well studied, but public policymakers tend to avoid or overlook the data and recommendations that could cost them any political capital.

For example, in 2013 California revamped education funding to provide extra money for school districts with large numbers of “high-needs” students, mostly kids from poor families or foster children and “English-learners.”

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) pushed expenditure decisions down from the state to local school districts because Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature believed that those closest to the day-to-day operation of schools were best suited to identify what their students needed and would work best for them.

However, this has proven not to be the case, particularly when it comes to the performance of Black students in California.

When the California Department of Education first introduced the new public education finance system in 2013, some lawmakers warned that the LCFF did not provide mechanisms to adequately track how local school officials would spend funds. Gov. Brown and groups representing school districts shot down attempts by legislators like Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) to address that concern.

This month, California State Auditor Elaine Howle announced that her office’s recent examination of LCFF spending found that the system lacked sufficient oversight and accounting controls, confirming Weber’s reservations. Realizing that there has been very little progress toward closing the achievement gap despite the state having redirected billions of dollars to help solve it, may finally force lawmakers to now consider passing the kind of legislation Weber initially proposed.

Edmonds, who was African American, made the observation that progress toward resolving the achievement gap might not happen as quickly as it could because of how hite policymakers viewed the issue. He did not question their sincerity about solving it, but was concerned about how they would approach it given biases they might have.

Working with legislators like Dr. Weber, we will begin to close the achievement gap.

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City Government

Policy Pathways Honors Former Mayor Elihu Harris and Six Youth Leaders

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.



Policy Pathways Logo courtesy of Organization's Facebook

Policy Pathways has announced former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris as its 2021 Policy Leadership Award recipient, along with six youth who will receive 2021 Youth Public Service Awards.

The award winners will be recognized Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at the Policy Pathways Third Annual Fall Celebration from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The event will take place online and is open to the public.

Elihu Harris

Kayla Patrick

The keynote speaker will be Kayla Patrick, senior data  and policy analyst at the Education Trust. She has conducted several major reports on policy and data analysis on the education of girls, particularly those of color. She has been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, and 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s education platform.

She will be receiving the Excellence in Public Policy and Administration Award.

Elihu Harris’s career in public service has spanned five decades. He is a former California assemblyman, executive director of the National Bar Association, mayor of Oakland, and chancellor of Peralta Community College District. Today, he is a private attorney and owner of the Harris Funeral Home in Berkeley.

Dr. Lenneal Henderson, visiting instructor at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, and board member and fellow of numerous humanitarian and cultural institutions, will introduce Harris.

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

University students being honored include Virginia students who have proven themselves to be leaders in public service in academics, community involvement and vision of the future.

“During our Third Annual Fall Celebration, we celebrate the accomplishments of policy leaders and public servants who have inspired us through their work, courage, dedication, and sheer will to overcome the barriers they faced that could have easily derailed their dreams,” said Policy Pathways President and CEO, Dr. D. Pulane Lucas.

The Fall Celebration supports the operations and programs of Policy Pathways. To purchase tickets and sponsorships, go to Contributions are tax-deductible. For more information about the event, contact or call (866)-465-6671.

Policy Pathways, Inc. is a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Va., providing education, training, and leadership development to high school students, recent high school graduates, and community college and undergraduates students who desire to become leaders in the fields of public policy, public administration, and public service.

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City Must Pay Contractors, Businesses, Non-Profits Promptly

By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.



Sheng Thao

I have introduced legislation to restore the City of Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance and it will be heard at 1:30 p.m. by the City Council on October 19 because local contractors and local businesses need to be compensated in a timely manner for work they do on behalf of the City.

It’s unacceptable that the city is using the COVID-19 pandemic to delay payment to these local non-profit organizations.  By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-Interim City Administrator, Steven Falk issued an Emergency Order suspending parts of the City’s codes to give the City the flexibility to navigate the uncertain times.  Few would have guessed then that the world would still be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic nearly 18 months later. One of the ordinances suspended by the Emergency Order was the Prompt Payment Ordinance.

Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance requires the City to compensate local businesses and contractors executing City grants or contracts within 20 days of receiving an invoice.  This allows local organizations providing services on behalf of the City of Oakland to be compensated in a timely manner and builds trust between these organizations and the city.  Local contractors and businesses provide a diverse set of services to the City, covering areas ranging from trash removal and paving to public safety.

Almost 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance is still suspended.  Even as City staff have adjusted to working remotely and the City has adjusted to operating during the pandemic, there is no requirement that the City compensate its contractors or local businesses in a timely manner.

Oaklanders can comment at the meeting by joining the Zoom meeting via this link or calling 1-669-900-6833 and using the Meeting ID 885 2765 2491 and raising their hand during the public comment period at the beginning of the Council meeting.


The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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A’s Owner John Fisher Port Proposal No Good for Oakland

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 



Howard Terminal on Port of Oakland Map


Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

It is such a bad idea and the costs to the public are so ridiculous that logically it shouldn’t happen.  But this right-wing, Trump-supporting Republican has a boatload of money and a few corporation-oriented politicians to help him push it through.  

So, Oaklanders need to be active, or he might get it. Here are two of the things we need to act on: 

  1. Fisher won’t spend his own money.  So, he wants Alameda County to give up spending on things like the COVID-19 pandemic, so we residents can pay for his project with taxpayer money.  The vote on this will come up to the Board of Supervisors on October 26.  If you’d prefer that the County fund health care, housing and other resident necessities, ask them to vote “No.” Call your supervisor at 510-208-4949 and/or attend the meeting.
  2. The Oakland City Council will make the ultimate decision about Fisher’s project and there are a zillion reasons they should say “No.”  Among them: a) Fisher’s project requires that thousands of people run across the tracks of a busy railroad, which killed a number of people even before there were big crowds needing to get to their condos or a stadium.   b) And  Fisher’s project would wreck Oakland’s Port.  The “Seaport Compatibility Measures” necessary to keep the Port alive would cost hundreds of millions of dollars which would not be needed if it were not for Fisher’s project.  So, Fisher, not taxpayers, should pay for them. c)  And then there are all the other ways it will hurt the waterfront, the environment, and Port workers.

You can get contact information to reach your Council member here –

Personally, any public official who votes for Fisher’s project will never get my vote again.   Call me hard-headed, but the harm to  Oakland as a working-class, multi-racial city, the harm to the ILWU (the union of Port workers, perhaps the most progressive union in America)  and the opposition of the people of East Oakland are enough to make my hard head think that’s what solidarity requires.

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