Election Day may have seen losses for Democratic seats at the national level, but Oakland’s next mayor, Libby Schaaf, is ready to take the city by storm with her plans for education.
On Nov. 4, the midterm elections took place, including the Oakland mayoral election. One of Schaaf’s campaign promises was changes to the education system in the city. Schaaf places an emphasis on students getting into early childhood education programs and going to college; she also supports ensuring that students of color get equal access to education. Because of its reputation for producing excellent teachers, Schaaf has expressed interest in teaming up with Mills’ School of Education to ensure her goals for the city’s schools get met.
“One of the things I’m very interested in [is] the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) — which exists between the City of Oakland, Alameda County, [Oakland Unified School District], and the school district of San Lorenzo — and whether or not we can take the work of the education cabinet and put it in the JPA, which is a more sustainable body because it’s the institutions and not just a politician,” Schaaf said.
Schaaf said that her administration going to find that government entities don’t have all the resources by themselves to provide support and help for the students. She thinks that it’s motivating to see that OUSD is not the only school district looking for quality teachers in the classroom.
“This is a community united in supporting our schools and our teachers,” Schaaf said. “We underpay our teachers, we subject them to really difficult work conditions and that has got to change if we want to change the educational outcome for our kids.”
Schaff believes that students in the Mills’ school of education can help discussions within the JPA by doing research because it can help them hone their decision-making process.
“[Students should] do the research and best practice analysis, really evaluate if what we’re doing in Oakland is in fact working,” Schaaf said.
Mills students have already been actively involved within the city government. Two Masters of Public Policy students interned in Schaaf’s office during her time as a city council member.
“I have had kicka– interns from Mills’ Public Policy program,” Schaaf said. “Any elected official who is not knocking on the door of that school is missing out on a good thing.”
Schaaf encourages more public policy students to approach elected officials and look for opportunities in offices where they have the chance to do real work. Mills Alum, Lili Mano ’12, who graduated from the public policy master’s program, worked in the mayor-elect’s office while she was in school. While there, Mano was instrumental in passing a law about treatment of exotic animals in the city. A current student of the public policy program, Sepi Aghdaee ’16, wrote the legislation for a measure on the ballot this past November that involves the drawing of district lines for elections; her measure passed at the polls.
Emma Ishii, a sophomore public policy student, said she is thrilled to hear about the accomplishments of Mills students who have gone through the same program she is currently going through. Hearing about their successes inspires Ishii.
“I think that it makes me feel like I’m in the right program, and I’m making the right decision in pursuing public policy,” Ishii said. “It’s reassuring to hear that Mills students have come out of the program and been successful with their careers.”
When Schaaf came to visit Ishii’s Women and Politics class, Ishii also said she found the then-councilwoman to be inspiring in how she managed to be such a successful politician.
“It was really impressive to see how she managed to balance her life with her family as well as run for office,” Ishii said. “Now it’s even more incredible that she [won].”
Public Policy Professor and the Director of the Public Policy Program at Mills, Carol Chetkovich, believes that the election of Schaaf will help strengthen the connection between students or alumnae and the city government.
“We’ve had several students and graduates go to work in Oakland city government, and I hope that number will grow,” Chetkovich said in an email. “Mayor-elect Schaaf has been a regular visitor in our class on women and politics, and her office has provided good internship opportunities for our students.”