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State Representatives—FCMAT and the County—Drive Budget Cuts, Not the Teachers Strike

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A new report from the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) indicates that the State of California, represented by FCMAT and the Alameda County Superintendent of Education, is requiring the school district to make budget cuts of jobs and programs totaling about $30 million this year, regardless of any costs generated by increased salaries for teachers and other school employees.

The district administration and much of the school board blame the new teachers contract for the cuts they are making, but they are silent about pressure the district faces from FCMAT and the County Superintendent.

FCMAT, which is an independent nonprofit funded by the state, works in schools districts
throughout California enforcing financial accountability, meaning that the agency requires local educators to adopt difficult austerity measures, such as school closures and cuts to educational programs.

FCMAT is sometimes referred to as a QUANGO, a quasi-autonomous non-governmental
organization, which Wikipedia defines as “a hybrid form of organization with elements of
both non-government organizations (NGOs) and public sector bodies … at least partly controlled and/or financed by government bodies.”

Working together, FCMAT and Alameda County Office of Education are
supervising OUSD under the terms of AB 1840, which “provides for several
changes in the oversight of fiscally distressed districts and sets forth specific
requirements for the Oakland Unified School District in exchange for providing
financial resources under certain circumstances.”

Backed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic Legislature passed
AB 1840 on Aug. 31, and the law became effective on Sept.17, 2018. FCMAT
played a role in drafting the legislation.

FCMAT’s 267-page report on the Oakland Unified School District, issued March 1, did not deal with the impact of the teachers’ strike settlement, which was settled too late to be included in the report’s findings.

The report quoted a Sept. 6, 2018 letter to OUSD from the County Office of
Education, which said the district’s solvency was “largely dependent on the district’s ability to implement approximately $30 million of ongoing reductions in 2018-19.”

The purpose of extra state funding connected to AB 1840 is to give the district three years to make layoffs, school closures and large cuts to central office administration and school sites. The money is not intended to help avoid any cuts but to give OUSD some time and space to make the cuts the state expects, making the reductions in three steps rather than diving head first off the cliff all at once.

According to the FCMAT report, AB 1840 provides for activities that “may
include but are not limited to … adoption and implementation of necessary
budgetary solutions, including the consolidation of school sites….(and) sale or
lease of surplus property.”

Under the guidance of FCMAT since 2003, the district has closed 18 schools
since 2004, 14 of which have become charter schools. FCMAT has long been
adamant about the need for OUSD to close schools.

While FCMAT admits school closings do not save money, selling or leasing schools can
generate income. The district is in the process of setting up a “7-11 committee,”
which is a process required by the state for local districts that want to sell public
property.

The supervision provided by FCMAT and the county looks at the district’s
financial condition as a given, which only can be improved with budget cuts—
not a something for which FCMAT and the county bear any responsibility
(going back to 2003). Ignored is the possibility of increased state support for
urban school districts or changing state laws to restrict the drain of charter schools
on public education dollars.

Looking favorably at the district’s “Citywide Plan,” authorized last June, ” FCMAT notes
that “the first strategy under this plan is to implement the Blueprint for Quality Schools
action plan to identify four cohorts of school changes….As a part of this plan, the district
will identify on a citywide map the school sites that will be closing or merging with a
nearby site.”

Detailing a timeline of district budget cuts, FCMAT also noted that the Board of
Education unanimously voted on Aug. 8 to “consider and implement budget
reductions,” including 234 FTE Certificated positions and 104 FTE Classified,
Management and Confidential positions for approximately $26.4 million to be identified
on or before Feb. 28, 2019, books and supplies of $400,000 and $3.5 million services
and operating expenses.”

On Sept. 12, the school board adopted a resolution endorsing the closing of
schools.

On Jan. 28, the board approved a plan to close Roots International Academy and
disperse its students. The campus would be given to Coliseum College
Preparatory Academy (CCPA), which currently shares the site with Roots.

On Feb. 19, “The district board received feedback from staff and stakeholders about the
restorative justice program, which was recommended at the Feb. 6, 2019 meeting to be
eliminated.”

Community

Ramachandran is the Only Candidate Who Lives in Oakland in the District 18 Assembly Race 

Oakland makes up 66% of Assembly District 18. Yet all the other major candidates live in Alameda or San Leandro. Our district has not had a representative from Oakland since the 1990s.

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Janani Ramachandran

Note: Janani Ramachandran is a social justice attorney. She has the sole endorsement of organizations rooted in Oakland, including ILWU, Oakland East Bay Democratic Club, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and Oakland Tenants Union. 

Oakland makes up 66% of Assembly District 18. Yet all the other major candidates live in Alameda or San Leandro. Our district has not had a representative from Oakland since the 1990s. Oakland deserves true representation in our Legislature, and here are some reasons why:

Howard Terminal

Look no further than the Howard Terminal to see the power that state legislation can have on local issues. Our most recent District 18 assembly member who lives in Alameda, facilitated the development of Howard Terminal by introducing AB 1191 and AB 734 – ultimately to benefit the billionaire Fisher family and their allies. By contrast, a legislator from Oakland would understand the disastrous consequences of the project for West Oakland residents, such as worsening air quality and stimulating rapid gentrification. 

A legislator from Oakland would also understand that such a project would threaten the job security of 85,000 workers at the Port of Oakland. As the only major candidate in this election publicly opposed to Howard Terminal, I promise to stand firmly by Oakland community groups in vocalizing my opposition to this project, and any others that prioritize billionaire interests over those of our neighbors.

OUSD Takeover

Oakland has been unable to run our own public schools since the deeply problematic state takeover of OUSD in 2003. This takeover, and the actions by the State-appointed administrator  in running up OUSD’s debt, led to the closure of many majority-Black public schools and the proliferation of charter schools (in fact, OUSD has the highest percentage of charter schools out of any school district in the state). 

Oakland deserves a legislator who will prioritize winning immediate return of full local control of our schools to our residents as soon as possible. It takes a genuine understanding of the hardship and trauma that the state takeover inflicted on our City to meaningfully fight for Oakland’s youth at the State Legislature – something that I unequivocally vow to do.

Tenant Protections

Tenants comprise over 60% of our city’s residents. Thanks to decades of local activism, Oakland has one of the strongest rent control ordinances in the state. However, our city’s hands are tied on many state laws that prevent tenants from being meaningfully protected. For example, the state law Costa Hawkins prevents Oakland from being able to expand rent control to units constructed after 1983 and to single-family homes. Having supported tenants facing eviction in Oakland in the course of my legal career – including during the pandemic –  I’m acutely aware of the need for stronger statewide tenant protections to support our city.

 For example, despite Oakland City Council passing a resolution calling upon the State Legislature to repeal the Ellis Act, or at least suspend these evictions during the pandemic, our legislature refused to act. As a tenant advocate who helped launch the coalition that spearheaded Ellis Act legislation, and as a tenant myself (if elected, I would be just 1 of 3 tenants, out of 120 state lawmakers), I would bring a tenants rights framework to our legislature to support the needs of Oakland tenants.

Gun Violence

Last year, nearly as many Black Oaklanders died from a gunfire as did from COVID-19. It isn’t enough to just say we need tougher statewide gun control laws – California already has some of the strongest in the country.

 Oakland deserves a state legislator who understands the root causes of this violence and the state action needed to address it – including more funding for community-based organizations that do meaningful prevention work, economic development and expanded career opportunities for our youth, and more broadly, treating gun violence as a public health crisis – all of which are pillars of my platform.

This special election, vote for the only Oakland candidate on the ballot, a person who will take action based on the needs of our city, and work towards achieving economic, educational, racial, and environmental justice. Learn more at www.jananiforca.com 

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Community

Legislative Summary from State Senator Nancy Skinner

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @NancySkinnerCA and Facebook and to visit my Senate website for regular updates on the status of my legislation and information on the state budget. It is a pleasure serving you in the state Senate.

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Sen. Nancy Skinner. Photo courtesy of Nancy Skinner.

Here’s a brief summary of the bills I introduced this year that are still moving through the legislative process. All so far were passed by the state Senate and are now on their way to the Assembly:

  • SB 8 Extends Housing Crisis Act of 2019: The Housing Crisis Act helped expedite housing that meets local rules by asking local governments to process permits faster and not change the rules midstream. SB 8 extends the sunset on the Housing Crisis Act until 2030.
  • SB 16 Coming Clean on Police Records: Thanks to my 2018 bill, SB 1421, Californians now have access to a limited set of police misconduct records. SB 16 expands access to records on officers who have engaged in biased or discriminatory behavior, unlawful arrests and searches, and excessive force.
  • SB 65 California Momnibus Act: California’s infant and maternal death rates, especially for families of color, persist at high rates. SB 65 expands pre- and postpartum services, such as doula care and financial support, to reduce death rates and ensures data is collected to understand what’s causing these disparities.
  • SB 65 California Momnibus Act: California’s infant and maternal death rates, especially for families of color, persist at high rates. SB 65 expands pre- and postpartum services, such as doula care and financial support, to reduce death rates and ensures data is collected to understand what’s causing these disparities.
  • SB 81 Judicial Guidelines for Sentencing Enhancements: California has over 160 enhancements that add time to a prison sentence over and above the time required for the crime committed. SB 81 establishes parameters for judges to determine whether a sentence enhancement is needed to help ensure that sentences are the length the judge believes is necessary to protect public safety.
  • SB 262 Bail Reform: I’m a joint author of SB 262 to reform CA’s bail system so no one is kept in jail simply because they can’t afford bail.
  • SB 290 Clarifying CA’s Density Bonus Law: Allows low-income student housing and for-sale low- and moderate-income housing to benefit from California’s Density Bonus law.
  • SB 354 Relative Placement: Reduces barriers that prevent children in foster care from being placed with relatives and extended family.

And great news, the funding to support my bill, SB 364, Free School Meals for All, was included in the Legislature’s budget proposal, which means millions of our K-12 students will get a free meal at school.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @NancySkinnerCA and Facebook and to visit my Senate website for regular updates on the status of my legislation and information on the state budget. It is a pleasure serving you in the state Senate.

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Community

At-Risk Youth Supported by the Children’s Home of Stockton

“It is the mission and goal of Children’s Home of Stockton to provide a means for youth in our program to successfully transition back to a safe living environment which can include reunification, or in some cases transitioning into independent living or a transition housing program. It is our goal to have our youth leave and transition back into the community as young adults and to have the necessary knowledge, skills and support to do so.”

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The Children's Home of Stockton

Oftentimes it can feel as if there are no resources for at-risk youth outside of their immediate home and that can snowball into dangerous outcomes very easily. They rely on their caretakers for direction and that isn’t always the right, or only, answer.

Fortunately, places like the Children’s Home of Stockton exist to offer resources to youth that are at a disposition. Consisting of a 34-bed, short-term residential therapeutic program and more, the Children’s Home of Stockton offers the highest level of care for at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 18.

Established in 1882 by a group of women seeking to offer charitable services to the city of Stockton, this non-profit is now one of the largest social service organizations in Stockton and the only licensed Short-Term Residential Therapeutic Program in San Joaquin County serving at-risk youth for the past 139 years.

Children’s Home of Stockton offers three main therapeutic and educational services to aid the at-risk youth of Stockton with their mission statement in mind;

“It is the mission and goal of Children’s Home of Stockton to provide a means for youth in our program to successfully transition back to a safe living environment which can include reunification, or in some cases transitioning into independent living or a transition housing program. It is our goal to have our youth leave and transition back into the community as young adults and to have the necessary knowledge, skills and support to do so.”

To meet their goal of creating an environment that models civility, expects responsibility, and promotes kindness, they have implemented Medi-Cal certified residential services, transitional care, and specialty mental health services. According to their website, the Children’s Home of Stockton provides approximately 150 children and adolescents with comprehensive educational and therapeutic services every calendar year. As quote from their website; “These services include an initial assessment, individual therapy, group therapy, crisis intervention services, medication support and management, intensive care coordination, in-home based services (where appropriate), mental-health rehabilitative services, collateral therapy, family therapy and targeted case management.”

Children’s Home of Stockton is open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and is located at 430 N. Pilgrim St., Stockton, CA 95205. To get in contact with their administration office you can reach them at 209-466-0853 or email at jgomez@chsstk.org. If you’d like more information on the short-term residential program, you can reach their residential director, Matthew Nomura, at 209-395-3564 or e-mail him at mnomura@chsstk.org or reach out directly to their intake coordinator, Lena Mayo, at 209-395-3532 or e-mail her at lmayo@chsstk.org. For contact information regarding their transitional aftercare program, you can reach out to their aftercare coordinator, Lisa Jordan, at 209-395-3551 or by e-mail at ljordan@chsstk.org. Lastly, for specialty mental health services you can get into contact with their clinical director, Katelyn Wells, at 209-395-3531 or by e-mail at kwells@chsstk.org.​

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