GUEST OPINION: The Real Winners Must be Our Students
on November 4, 2014
The Richmond Confidential story on the school board election in West Contra Costa Unified School District (Pro-charter school PACs flood West Contra Costa school board elections.) leaves me puzzled. After 15 years of teaching at Cal Berkeley myself, I applaud the experience these young journalists are gaining. Still, our students and families depend on you to ensure the story is complete and balanced.
While telling readers about “pro-charter” money flooding into West Contra Costa school board elections, your reporters make no mention of the fact that Madeline Kronenburg, an incumbent board member running for re-election, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions over the years from construction and engineering firms who are school district vendors.
We have a rich and diverse community, and that requires us to be respectful of the varying perspectives that exist – not just the parents who penned that letter, with all due respect. The many comments that I see posted on that article do a better job than I could ever do to put a voice to the many families – from Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole, Hercules and beyond – who desperately want and need change.
We have to be careful to avoid diverting attention from the real issue. Until there is campaign finance reform in our community, which Ms. Kronenburg has opposed, we have to create a more level playing field. It cannot be the supporters of the status quo alone who are heard. It cannot be the district vendors alone who get involved.
The facts here are pretty plain. Whoever wins or loses in the school board election, we must ensure that it’s our students who ultimately come out ahead. That starts with getting honest about the challenges we face. We need more great schools and quality options for families. There are no silver bullets, but we should encourage and support our great educators – both inside the traditional public schools and in the public charter schools – to advance solutions that meet parents’ demand for great schools.
The charter schools are performing well in our district and serving a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged students and children of color. At the same time, we have some fantastic district schools, teachers and principals. We should support what’s working for our kids, and not divide ourselves across false lines. Our Foundation supports programs at the district, and also to a lesser degree, at some public charter schools in the community. We care only about what works for our students, especially those who most depend on a transformational educational experience.
Regardless of the election results, for the sake of the students and taxpayers, let’s get serious about the challenges that exist, and then come together to focus on solutions for all students across our communities. That’s the most important win in the end.
Steve Chamberlin is a Richmond resident and retired Haas School of Business Adjunct Professor
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