California Editorial Rdp

Aug. 13

Los Angeles Times on school segregation:

Charter schools in California tend to enroll large numbers of low-income black and Latino students. That's not surprising; from the start, that was their main mission — to provide excellent educational options to students who had been let down by unambitious and poorly run district public schools.

But in the tiny Sausalito Marin City School District, which enrolls students through eighth grade, something entirely different happened. A charter school called Willow Creek Academy in the Sausalito part of the district was allowed to enroll the vast majority of the district's white students while another K-8 school was set up at an existing campus in less-affluent Marin City with a much larger percentage of low-income and minority students.

A state investigation found that this was no accident, and that the district "knowingly and intentionally" maintained and exacerbated a segregated school system. That should be shocking in this day and age, but we fear that's not the case, as the nation in recent decades has lost its focus on school integration.

At Willow Creek, 42% of the students were white in 2018-19, according to the California Department of Education. At the Bayside Martin Luther King School, only 7% were white. Willow Creek's students are substantially wealthier too; they're less than half as likely to qualify for subsidized lunches than those at the Bayside Martin Luther King School in Marin City.

The results were sadly predictable: According to state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Bayside MLK was stripped of money and programs shortly after it opened.

Meanwhile, according to a 2016 report, the school district provided extraordinary support to the charter school, fixing up its campus, not charging anything for use of the campus, and paying extra for Willow Creek's special-education students, including those who attended from other school districts.

Late last week, the school district reached a settlement with the state in which the district agreed to integrate its schools and pay for scholarships, counseling and other programs for the students who were essentially robbed of an equal education. It must start desegregating in 2020-21 and complete the effort within five years or face escalating punitive measures.

The former school board's actions "included intentional racial and ethnic segregation of schools within the district, termination of math, science, and English programs at Bayside MLK, and funding decisions that failed to deliver promised resources to the predominantly minority community of students at Bayside MLK," Becerra's office said in a press release.

It should be extraordinary that this battle is still being fought so many decades after the school desegregation efforts of the civil rights era, and in a liberal enclave of a liberal state. But as the debates among Democratic hopefuls have shown, the problem of school segregation is far from over. Schools are more racially segregated today than they have been in decades. And no longer are the most segregated schools in the American South; New York state has the most segregated schools for African American students, according to a May 2019 report from UCLA.

And guess where the most segregated schools are for Latino students?

"California is the most segregated for Latinos, where 58% attend intensely segregated schools, and the typical Latino student is in a school with only 15% white classmates," the UCLA report said. That's in part because of demographic shifts around the state, the report said, but it also stems from "the termination of desegregation efforts."

Some districts are trying. San Francisco has turned to a lottery system that removes school boundaries and gives students a leg up on being admitted to the school of their choice if they come from a neighborhood with an underperforming school. Results have been mixed, though.

What's more, the state has many small-to-medium-size districts that have both wealthy, white towns and lower-income communities of color within their boundaries, with drastically different racial populations at schools just a few miles from each other.

Sometimes — such as in school districts where most of the students are of one ethnic group — it's difficult to ensure that students go to school in racially mixed classrooms. But now that the state has extracted this settlement from Sausalito Marin City, it should systematically look at districts that could be doing a much better job of integrating and providing equal educational opportunity. Studies have shown that integration results in higher achievement and college-going rates for students of color and does nothing to harm the achievement of white students.

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Aug. 13

Mercury News & East Bay Times on county's plan to sell its part of a stadium:

Alameda County supervisors should abandon their plans to sell half-ownership of the Oakland Coliseum to the A's and instead return to the bargaining table with the city.

Four months ago, the county reached a non-binding agreement to sell its 50% interest in the sports facility to the baseball team. But the A's aren't interested in building a ballpark there; they have their sights set on the waterfront near Jack London Square. They want the Coliseum property, which the Golden State Warriors and Oakland Raiders are also abandoning, to make millions on development.

The tentative agreement between the county and the A's, as reported here when it was first announced, would be a sweetheart deal for the A's at county taxpayer expense. It would give the team half-ownership without having to competitively bid for it.

It would also undermine the city of Oakland, which owns the other half-interest in the Coliseum property. The city would be unable to determine the best use of the property for the benefit of residents and taxpayers because it would need the cooperation of a team with self-serving interests.

Oakland and Alameda County had been negotiating for four years when the county instead suddenly announced the tentative deal with the A's. The good news is that the county is not locked into the agreement. An exchange of letters the city initiated with the county last week indicates there might still be room for a deal between the two public entities.

County officials say they want out of the sport business and to pay off their $67 million share of the debt for improvements to the Coliseum. That's understandable. However, the county is a public entity that has invested millions of public dollars in the Coliseum. If officials now want to walk away, they have an obligation to put the public interest first.

For starters, that means the county should not be selling its half-interest in the property to a private entity at a below-market price. Yet, that's clearly what they would be doing with the tentative A's agreement.

Under the proposed deal, the county would sell its half-share to the A's for $85 million. But that price is based on an old appraisal that was conducted as the city and county were trying to keep the Raiders from moving to Las Vegas. It assumed the football team would use nearly half the site for a new stadium.

The Coliseum property is likely worth far more now that it's all available for development. If the county were to sell the land to a private party, it would have a responsibility to ensure it was getting market value.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley has claimed the discounted price to the A's is justified because it would be offset by the benefits of keeping the team in town. He's wrong. First, the A's say they're not interested in the Coliseum site for their new ballpark. Second, contrary to urban legend sports franchises like to perpetuate, subsidies to pro teams are financial losers for communities.

If, however, the county insists on giving away its half-interest in the Coliseum for a song, the city should have first dibs. The public's interest should be put ahead of a private party's.

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Aug. 9

The Sacramento Bee on safe parking zones:

It's tragic when making it easier for people to live in cars is what passes for a bold solution to California's escalating housing crisis. But that's what it has come to in the Golden State in 2019.

Every night in Sacramento County, hundreds of people — including approximately 100 children — lay their heads down to sleep on the seats of the cars they call home. A survey of the county's homeless population conducted earlier this year found homeless people using approximately 340 vehicles as shelter.

"The number of people, including families with children, living in their cars in Sacramento County has drastically increased in the last four years," according to a story by The Sacramento Bee's Theresa Clift. "Volunteers canvassing the county in January found four times the number of vehicles where people were living than they counted in 2015."

Sacramento is not unique. With housing and shelter beds in short supply, the trend of people using their vehicles as homes has become increasingly common in cities across the state.

That's why Sacramento is rightly considering the creation of safe parking zones where people who live in their vehicles can safely park. In doing so, Sacramento would join several cities across the state — including Oakland, San Luis Obispo, San Diego and Santa Barbara — in creating legal spaces for homeless people who live in cars.

"For many homeless families, living in a vehicle is like hanging on to their last piece of normalcy," wrote Clift. "They plan to just live in their cars for a few weeks in between losing an apartment and finding the next one."

Living in a car is hard enough, but city laws make it even harder. When you live in your car, parking tickets and tow trucks become an existential threat. When a person's shelter gets towed away, they can lose all of their belongings in the process.

That's what happened to Gwen Mayse, who lives in a Honda Accord in North Sacramento with her two small dogs. Her daughter lives nearby in a Jeep Cherokee.

"Mayse has had three cars towed in recent years," wrote Clift. "She never gets them back. When her Ford Expedition parked on an Elk Grove street earlier this summer got towed, she and her daughter lost everything — clothes, toiletries, tools, their new car jack, and even Mayse's birth certificate."

Safety is another pressing issue for vehicle dwellers. Parked on isolated streets or cul-de-sacs, potentially in violation of the law, homeless people can be left more vulnerable to crime.

"I'm afraid if I got to sleep and there's nobody back here, then something might happen," Mayse told The Bee.

For people who have hit rock bottom and must live in their cars, a safe place to park can make a big difference. That's why it's heartening to see Sacramento leaders like Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Councilman Jay Schenirer and Councilman Rick Jennings embracing the idea.

"It's time for a jolt of clarity and that jolt of clarity, to me, is people gotta be inside and in any way possible," said Steinberg, who has made solve homelessness a priority. "I don't consider a car to be a long-term or even a medium-term place to be, but if we can organize an area in the short interim and use it to help people get indoors, I'm open to it."

Schenirer and Jennings have asked city staff to study the idea, which was recommended by Sacramento State University researchers who conducted the countywide homeless count.

Sacramento's safe parking zone would have security guards, bathrooms and shower trailers, matching the approach other cities have taken. While Sacramento is spending millions to open temporary shelters around the city, the tide of homelessness is rising too quickly to keep up. Many people who live in their cars are new to homelessness.

The approach seems to be working in other cities.

"Our first site is doing better than we could have possibly imagined," said Joe DeVries, assistant to the city administrator of Oakland, where the city opened a safe parking lot for people who live in recreational vehicles. "The need is overwhelming."

Oakland plans to open more sites, while San Diego already has five sites serving more than 600 people a night. Safe parking lots are more economical than traditional shelter spaces, and some can cost less than $50,000 a year, said Assemblymember Autumn Burke, D-Marina Del Ray.

Burke has introduced a bill to require municipalities with 330,000 people or more to open safe parking lots by 2022. Three other bills pending in the Legislature would make it easier for people to live in their cars without legal problems.

It's a sad sign of the times, but also a refreshingly realistic approach to a growing crisis. Sacramento should open as many sites as necessary to keep people safe until they can find real housing. Residents of Sacramento County can play a role by supporting, rather than opposing, the placement of safe parking lots in our communities.

To start, Sacramento's leaders should consider declaring the streets around the State Capitol a safe parking zone. It might provide state officials with a daily reminder of the escalating and untended emergency on their doorstep.

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