Access to quality education is one of the surest ways to assure the development of positive, productive, and high achieving children and youth.
On this point, there is consensus. For that reason, Oakland voters overwhelming approved Measure AA this past November, a measure that will work to uplift a generation of children by securing much-needed funding for early education and continuity of resources from preschool through graduation and beyond to increase college graduation rates.
Yet despite Oakland voters delivering a clear mandate in support of Measure AA, it now sits in limbo, awaiting a vote of approval from the Oakland City Council, which has signaled it will prevent the measure from collecting the education funding. The latest misleading attacks lobbed against Measure AA are textbook straw man arguments, designed to mask the self-interested forces behind the opposition.
After losing at the ballot box, these same special interest forces now hope to end AA for good. Their latest attack, screaming and shouting that Measure AA should be shot down because 2/3 of voters did not approve it, is a last-ditch Hail Mary play. Plain and simple, the court decision California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland (2017) determined that special tax measures like Measure AA, that are put on the ballot by the will of the people, only require a simple majority vote. In San Francisco, the City Attorney has already applied the same law to a similar ballot measure, Proposition C.
Let's be clear: what stands in the way of kick-starting Measure AA's generational lift of educational resources and support, is an active group of anti-tax purists who have no vested long-term interest in the wellbeing of Oakland communities, families, or children and who are trying to administratively kill AA. This small minority has propped up misleading and inaccurate arguments to place pressure on the City Council to deny Oakland's needy families affordable and high-quality preschool, and school age resources and support on a continuum basis. These individuals want to benefit from Oakland's real estate and corporate interests but all the while are fighting tooth and nail to stop from supporting the very same community that they profit from.
We know who this cast of characters is because they are the same individuals that fought Measure AA by pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into fighting our campaign. To make matters worse, most of the opposition funding came from individuals who don't live in Oakland.
The truth of the matter is: Oakland residents voted for Measure AA because it is good for Oakland's children. Period. Oakland needs more education funding, resources and programs. Nearly 20 percent of Oakland residents live at or below the poverty line, and only a third of African-American, Latino, and low-income students enter school ready for kindergarten. Measure AA removes these barriers and gives every child access to high quality and affordable pre-school and ongoing resources to assure academic and social success through graduation to their first career.
This is the time to stand strong and not allow this critical funding to be derailed by these powerful special interests whose only concerns are keeping the disparities and protecting the status quo.
Measure AA was approved with 62.5 percent of the vote. We know where our communities stand.
Our community knows that our children need expanded access to quality early care and support reaching higher education.
We know what the path forward looks like. The Oakland City Council should follow San Francisco's example and collect the Measure AA revenue, and prudently and conservatively secure it in an escrow account until legal challenges are resolved. Council should also bring a validation action to protect and save Measure AA. We know our city's educational needs are great.
The Oakland City Council has often championed groundbreaking and progressive policies to help our most vulnerable residents. This time should be no different. It's time to come together, stand on the side of education and empower and encourage City Council to stand on the right side of history, and vote with their progressive values like they've done many times before.