Mister Phillips: voting rights and charter schools

Mister Phillips speaks at a district graduation ceremony in June 2018. (Photo credit: WCCUSD)

By Mister Phillips

The agenda for the Feb. 27, 2019, meeting of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education is now online. Here are two highlights.
First, the board may adopt in closed session a final trustee area map that the public has not yet seen. This map will be used to determine who can run for school board and who can vote for them.

As a black man, civil rights attorney, and student of American history, I am strongly opposed to public officials making decisions about voting rights behind the closed doors of power.
Moreover, the fact that board leadership and the superintendent would even consider doing this during Black History Month or the coming Women’s History Month is highly offensive in my opinion. Blacks, women, and their allies have literally died for the right to vote.
In “Give Us the Ballot,” the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

If we are to be found worthy of the legacy of the Reconstruction period, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Woman Suffrage Movement, we must be willing to speak out against attacks on the right to vote by liberals and conservatives alike with equal soul force.
Second, the board may vote on competing resolutions in support of a statewide moratorium on charter schools. At the last board meeting, trustees Consuelo Lara and Valerie Cuevas introduced a resolution calling for a statewide moratorium on charter schools. Since then, trustees Tom Panas and Stephanie Hernandez-Jarvis have introduced a second resolution.

Meanwhile, I have gone on record in support of adopting the Los Angeles Unified School District resolution on charter schools and a separate package of board policies that are considered by district staff to be best practices in charter school oversight.

It will be interesting to see where the board ultimately lands on these important issues.