Cat Brooks's Position and Record on Charter Schools is a Deal-breaker—Vote NO

By Emma E.

My name is Emma and I am an active member of EBDSA. Many of you know me as a volunteer at meetings and internal election work, but you may not know that I am also a union member and union staffer. I work for California Teachers Association and the specific local that I work with—United Teachers of Richmond—represents 1700 teachers in West Contra Costa County, some of whom are also EBDSA members. UTR, along with with our sister locals—Oakland Education Association and United Educators of San Francisco—are some of the more militant and progressive locals in CTA. Many of our members were instrumental in getting CTA statewide to support Yes On Prop 10/repealing Costa Hawkins, as well as passing Sanctuary District policies that help protect students from ICE. This Friday I will be driving a van of teachers, parents, and community advocates to Sacramento where we will be fighting a new charter school that wants to open in our district. I write to you not as an all-knowing expert on education policy in California, but as a socialist deeply connected to the struggles of teachers and the struggles of our public education system. I dedicate my life to fighting with public servants for public services because I believe every single person deserves education, healthcare, housing, and basic dignity. Its why I joined EBDSA.

I am begging you not to endorse Cat Brooks for Oakland Mayor. Initially, I was myself undecided about Cat. I liked the idea of an openly socialist mayor and have seen her do good work around police brutality and gentrification. I don’t vote for people based on their personalities—I vote based on their actions. Unfortunately, her record on education privatization is a deal-breaker for me and I believe it should be a deal-breaker for every committed socialist.

Charter Schools exist to dismantle our public education system and sell neighborhood schools off to the highest bidder. Charter Schools are unaccountable to taxpayers, opaque in their finances and curriculum, and active union-busters. When a Charter School comes into a school district, they divert funds from the rest of the public schools. However, those funds rarely go to educating the kids they propose to serve. Rather, the money lines the pockets of CEOs and investment bankers while children go without textbooks, experience abuse, and lack basic services like English Language Learning and Specialized Education. Charter schools further segregate schools by preying on families who are frustrated with the service they receive at their often chronically underfunded local public schools. But rather than solving the funding problem, Charter’s exacerbate them leading to teacher layoffs, program collapse, and school closures. Oakland Unified School district has already been devastated by charter expansion. A great deal of this has two do with Jumoke Hinton-Hodge and GO Public Schools. Jumoke Hinton-Hodge is known as one of the most pro-charter school board members in the entire state. I have literally watched her vote for charters even as parents, community members, teachers, and students begged her not to. Even knowing how new charters decimate OUSD’s budget and make it impossible for them to provide services, Jumoke continues to vote yes on new charters. GO Public Schools and the Education Trust both act as front groups for the charter industry, taking massive amounts of $ and then hiding behind a veneer of respectability and non-profit status. Their goal is to fund pro-charter school board candidates like Jumoke who can then push for pro-charter, anti-public education policies. The fact that Cat Brooks at one time ran on a slate of school board candidates alongside Jumoke Hinton-Hodge and funded by GO Public Schools, and worked for the Education Trust, West should absolutely be a deal-breaker.

Some folks will tell you that Cat has changed her mind, that now she is against charters. But in recent statements she has failed to unequivocally denounce GO Public Schools and her union-busting anti-public education work with the Education Trust. She has continued to make nods towards Charters by allowing pro-charter advocates on her radio show. In her candidate questionnaire, she seemed to take the “both sides” position, blaming both public schools and charters for our struggling schools, which at best is a shallow analysis of the charter issue in OUSD, and at worst an obfuscation of her true beliefs. Where is the change of heart? How can we trust her to keep her word, or hold her accountable? To me, this is the same as if a slumlord came to us asking for our endorsement promising that now they support Prop 10. I don’t care what you say. I care what you do. And when what you do is tout your work with pro-charter groups, fail to unequivocally denounce charters as a tool of the capitalist class to dismantle public education, and stand alongside longtime anti-public education advocates—that’s all I need to see.

Please do not be swayed by Cat Brooks or her supporters into sweeping this incredibly important issue under the rug. Please do not vote to endorse Cat Brooks for mayor. Unfortunately, I cannot attend because I will be working CTA’s booth at Oakland Pride. If you would like to talk privately about this issue, please email me at I believe in public education. I believe in democratic socialism. I don’t believe that Cat Brooks is right for EBDSA.

For more information, I recommend:

In The Public Interest’s report on the hidden cost of charter schools which uses OUSD as a case-study:

Public Advocate’s report on how charters fail to disclose how public money that is earmarked for student services is spent:

The statement above is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the opinions of East Bay DSA, its steering committee, or its members.