This year, Carol Watkins, California City Organizer, helped to organize and establish the first predominantly African-American Vecinos Unidos(Neighbors United) Chapter. DHF has been working closely with youth and parents to address the discipline crisis in the Mojave Unified School District (MUSD). As a result, the district agreed to create an African-American Parent Committee. MUSD has the highest suspension rate of African-American students in the state. A shocking 81% of African American students were suspended or expelled in the 2014-15 school year.
California City Vecinos achieved great victories through parent engagement and advocacy in the LCAP process. Harshly affected by zero-tolerance policies and the pushout of African American students, parents organized and submitted recommendations to MUSD. Among these recommendations were the removal of security resource officers on campus, changing the grading system to make it more fair, increasing funds for cultural awareness, and more. Although not all recommendations were adopted, MUSD has allocated funds towards implicit bias training for teachers, curriculum on the African American experience, and hiring teachers of color.
In May 2018, the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) and Vecinos Unidos(Neighbors United) of Lamont and Arvin pushed for fairer representation on the Kern High School District (KHSD) Board of Trustees. DHF’s new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team was able to gather population data and develop a variety of maps to present its case for better representation on the KHSD’s Board. DHF’s GIS Analyst developed a map that showcased the Latino’s population growth in Kern County on the school district’s map using information from the American Community Survey. The proposed DHF map highlighted the residence of three trustees, all who live within a three-mile radius from one another in the wealthiest, affluent area of Northwest Bakersfield. These tools helped the community understand how KHSD gerrymandered boundaries which resulted in the centralized power of the white minority, thereby systematically denying the just representation of historically disenfranchised communities of color. The DHF and communities attended board meetings to advocate for an additional Latino-majority district and the grouping of communities of interest to prevent further gerrymandering and to distribute power fairly across communities served by KHSD. The maps created by the DHF’s GIS team were presented at board meetings to counter the maps being presented by the KHSD. In the end, the Kern County Committee on School District Organization (KCCSDO), the entity with the final say, voted to implement a school district map that was proposed by the KHSD Board of Trustees and made no major changes to decentralizing power concentrated in Northwest Bakersfield. The DHF and Vecinosattained a second Latino-majority district, although more needs to be done to end underrepresentation on boards that impact the education inequities in Kern County.
The DHF staff and 136 volunteers collected more than 3,000 signatures for the petition to qualify the Schools and Communities First Initiative for the November 2020 ballot, surpassing its organizational goal. The DHF in partnership with California Calls hopes to fund our schools and local communities by closing California’s massive corporate loophole. The initiative, if passed, will increase state revenue by making corporations pay their fair share of commercial property taxes. California is the 5th largest economy in the world; we should be able to pay for world-class schools, health care for all, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing. Closing the corporate loophole will reclaim $11 billion every year for our schools and communities. This means we can restore our emergency responder services, parks and libraries, health clinics and trauma centers, housing development and services for the homeless, infrastructure, and local schools and community colleges.
Please read the latest edition of the Weaving Movements DHF Newsletter to meet some of our new staff and learn about some of the exiting work we were able to accomplish this year – thanks to the contributions of our esteemed volunteers and generous donors!
On May 10th, 2016, the Kern Education Justice Collaborative, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Faith in Action, and California Rural Legal Assistance held a press conference with parents, community members, and local leaders announcing a county wide Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Media Campaign encouraging public involvement in the school funding decision making process and participation in upcoming LCAP public comment sessions.
The campaign draws attention to the fact that Kern High School District is failing our kids. Only 15% of graduating students are college ready. Students in low-income communities are particularly vulnerable. According to the (School Accountability Report Cards) SARC on the KHSD website schools on the West Side have, on average, roughly twice as many AP courses as those on the East Side. For instance, Golden Valley offered 10 AP courses, Miramonte offered 8, East 10, and Arvin High 10. By contrast, Stockdale offered 21 AP courses, while Centennial offered 23. This highlights the fact that KHSD schools with the highest needs are not receiving the funds that they are guaranteed through the Local Control Funding Formula.
When signing the law, Jerry Brown called it a civil rights issue. “Through the LCFF students that have additional needs will get additional help… it is right, and it’s fair.”
The LCFF is intended to target low-income, English language learning, and foster youth (LI, ELL, and FY) students. How these additional funds are spent is determined through the LCAP process, which legally requires that schools engage with stakeholders and gather public input in May and June 2016.
The Kern Education Justice Collaborative, The Dolores Huerta Foundation, and Faith in Action Kern County invite the community to participate in a FREE LCAP Workshop for the general public to learn hands-on strategies and skills for Influencing school budgets. The workshop is being held on Monday, May 16th from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Reider Education Center at 2000 K Street, Room 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301.
Equality Program Organizers, Moises Duran and Dean Welliver, participated in the Kern County Foster Youth Empowering Success Conference on Friday, May 6, 2016 at Bakersfield. They did outreach on behalf of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Center of Bakersfield, providing information about support services in the community for LGBTQ foster youth and offering opportunities for civic engagement.
The youth led Kern County Foster Youth Empowering Success Conference focused on topics surrounding Foster Youth. Youth transitioning to adulthood were encouraged to engage and live in their community as a whole to increase their success in pursuing education and employment. The event allowed for caregivers and community agencies to come together to collaborate with foster youth and develop partnerships that reinforce existing relationships in order to provide supportive services that lead to their success.
Board of Supervisors 2011 Redistricting Plan Denies Latino Voters A Second Majority District
On Friday, April 22nd, 2016 MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization, filed suit against the Kern County, California Board of Supervisors, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, for violating Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The suit, filed on behalf of Latino citizens of Kern County, challenges Kern County’s 2011 redistricting plan for unlawfully diluting the Latino vote and effectively preventing Latinos from meaningful participation in Board of Supervisors elections.
In 2011, the Kern County Board of Supervisors adopted a new 5-district county supervisorial plan based on the 2010 U.S. Census data. The plan contains one district – District 5 – where Latinos constitute a majority of the eligible voters. That district is currently represented by Leticia Perez, who was elected in 2012, and it is the only district that has regularly elected a Latino candidate in the last two decades. MALDEF contends that a fairly drawn plan should have included a second Latino majority district in northern Kern County. Instead, the 2011 redistricting plan divided a politically cohesive Latino community in the northern part of Kern County into two supervisorial districts, neither one of which has sufficient Latino population to enable Latino voters to elect a candidate of their choice.
“The growth of the Latino population in Kern County warrants additional representation of Latino-preferred candidates on the Board of Supervisors,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “The Board’s refusal to create a new Latino-majority district, even after being presented with the facts in support of one, led directly to this federal lawsuit.”
Dolores Huerta, Kern County resident and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, said, “We are grateful that MALDEF is committed to represent our community to rectify a poor decision made by the Board of Supervisors five years ago. We are confident that the Latino community in Kern County will win the representation that we deserve.”
Although Latinos comprise 34% of Kern County’s citizen voting age population, the current districting plan prevents Latino voters from attaining representation on the Board in numbers that reflect their voting strength, and the underrepresentation of Latino-preferred candidates has persisted for decades.
Joaquin Avila, co-counsel representing plaintiffs in the case, said, “The 21st Century continues to herald the growth of the Latino population within the state of California and the necessity to fully politically integrate the Latino community into the body politic. All we are seeking is an opportunity to elect candidates of our choice in a manner that is enjoyed by the white population. Nothing more.”
Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney, said, “The fracturing of the Latino community in northern Kern County is precisely the kind of racial gerrymandering that the Voting Rights Act was intended to cure, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly condemned as illegal discriminatory vote dilution.”
MALDEF and the Plaintiffs in the case seek an order requiring the County to redraw its supervisorial plan to reflect the growth of the County’s Latino population in a manner that provides all voters with an equal opportunity to elect candidates of choice.
The right to vote is fundamental to democracy in the U.S. and must be protected for all citizens, regardless of race. MALDEF supports equal representation for all communities across the country.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.
For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org
“This School-to-Prison Pipeline has got to stop! When kids are removed from schools, they can’t do their school work. They fall behind and end up dropping out. Many of these young people end up incarcerated. We have to help these kids by making sure they stay in school.” – Dolores Huerta
DHF collaborated with California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities in spearheading the Kern Education Justice Collaborative addressing the disproportionate amount of expulsions affecting African-American and Latino students.
DHF worked with parents, faith-based organizations, legal agencies, and community organizations to develop a set of recommendations for the KHSD Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) focused on stopping the “School to Prison Pipeline” by improving school climate.
DHF launched a campaign to make sure parent and youth voices are heard and that Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds are spent following the intent of the law.
DHF Education Department, Erika Brooks and Timoteo Prado are organizing and empowering parents to become effective advocates for children in schools.
In a partnership with the Lamont School District, parents received trainings on their rights, the disciplinary process, and basic information about school funding under LCFF.
To read the full story click on this link EDUCATION
Manuela Ortega, is a Spanish-speaking, immigrant. She has been a member of the Lamont Vecinos Unidos group since its start in 2004. She has three children in the Lamont School District. She has served on school committees advising the Lamont School Board on English Learners. Through training and advocacy, she knows her rights. She is not afraid to address the board of Trustees, and has done so on many occasions, regarding the needs of English language learners in the Lamont School District. Her youngest son, Baltazar Ortega, began having difficulties in school. He was lacking motivation and manifesting behavioral issues. As an informed and empowered parent, with the skills and confidence necessary to navigate the educational system, she made sure her son received speech classes and glasses. His self-esteem and grades improved. Through grassroots organizing, proactive leadership, continual engagement, and sense of responsibility is cultivated and strengthened.
The DHF Vecinos Unidos celebrated after graduating from a Compreshensive Parent Training Program. Instructor Martha Elias provided families with the valuable tools needed to navigate the educational system and advocate for the best possible educational experience for their children. They learned Strategies for Authentic Parent Engagement, Understanding and Getting Involved in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and more.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Through a regional collaboration under Cultiva la Salud, organizing and outreach efforts by Yesenia Ocampo and Elizabeth Martinez, Health Policy Organizers of the DHF have inspired a determined group of Arvin residents to drive healthy change for over 20,000 residents.
Over 100 residents are taking leadership roles and working with city and school leaders to advocate for improved infrastructure to provide: access to healthful foods in their neighborhoods and schools, safety measures on roads and sidewalks for better walkability, safer routes to school, increased park space, improvements to existing park space, and creation of safer environments that encourage walking and biking.
In October the Walking and Biking Safety Committee held their first ever Cumbia Bike Ride a well-attended event that encouraged the community to have fun with movement and music, and helped raise awareness about bicycle infrastructure needs in Arvin.
Organizing efforts led by DHF Organizer, Irlanda Ramirez, have encouraged community members in Woodlake and Lindsay, rural farm worker towns in Tulare County, California to work to improve the health and well-being of children attending public schools, while also addressing health disparities caused by poverty and lack of access to healthy food.
Irlanda has trained Parents and youth in advocacy and are working to strengthen School Wellness Policies to include improved nutrition guidelines, increased physical activity during school hours, and safer routes to schools.
DHF worked on the #Health4All campaign contributing to groundbreaking statewide legislation that allowed California to become the fifth state to allow undocumented children from low-income families to enroll in comprehensive health care.
DHF worked with partner California Calls to head voter outreach efforts in the Central Valley instrumental in passing Proposition 47, a much-needed and long-overdue criminal justice reform bill.
In May, under the direction of Jess Contreras, Civic Engagement Coordinator, the DHF collaborated with local legal agencies and community organizations to host an Immigration Forum. Attendees were provided with information and free legal consultations regarding AB 60 Driver’s Licenses, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), and the U Visa for Victims of Crimes. Over 100 people attended.
DHF informed and mobilized the community when the Kern County Sheriff’s Department announced a plan to invite U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) into the Lerdo Jail in Bakersfield and made it clear that we will not tolerate law enforcement, charged with protecting public safety, facilitating deportation and the separation of families and harming the very communities they are tasked with keeping safe.
DHF participated in Immigrant Day joining hundreds of immigrants and advocates from across California in support of state proposals that advance immigrant integration and prosperity for all Californians.
In July, DHF and supporters joined labor and civil rights activists in San Diego to protest the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a powerful, well-funded corporate special interest front group in America at their annual conference – where corporate special interests and right-wing legislators come together to plot how to further undermine workers’ rights, environmental protections and basic fairness.
“I came to Sacramento to urge members of the Assembly to support SB 128, the End of Life Option Act. This bill will affirm a fundamental right for terminally ill and mentally competent patients to choose how their final days are lived. This is a basic civil rights issue offering a compassionate and dignified end-of-life choice that should be left between a patient and doctor.” – Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta publicly endorsed the End of Life Option Act (SB 128) and encouraged Latino legislators to vote for it. Several Latino legislators serve on the Assembly Health Committee, which voted on the bill in July.