Illustration by Gemma Fa-Kaji
November’s elections will decide which party controls Congress and will decide the next Governor of California. Elections are also occurring locally, including one very competitive election for state Assembly in the Bay Area. While the candidates are both Democrats, Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles are very different. Wicks is a relatively moderate alumna of the Obama administration endorsed by President Barack Obama, Senator Kamala Harris, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
Both candidates are skeptical of charter schools (private schools which receive public funding and do not require tuition). However, they express this in very different ways.
Beckles advocates for a statewide moratorium on charter school. In other words, she wants to ban districts from opening new charter schools. There are legitimate worries about the accountability of charter schools. However, the solution to this is not a blanket ban. Simply because some charters have not lived up to expectations is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. A charter moratorium would eliminate not only flawed charter schools, but effective ones as well, preventing local communities from controlling their own education systems.
Wicks has a similar skepticism of charters, but she expresses it by supporting transparency laws such as the Brown Act and the Public Records Act, a common-sense step to ensure charters are held accountable. This help ensures that low-quality or fraudulent charters could be regulated, without impacting the charters that do work well.
They do agree on other educational issues, so why is Wicks better? Having good ideas is one thing, but passing them is another. Wicks has been endorsed by Lt. Governor and current gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, and describes him as a friend. If Newsom wins — and polls show he almost certainly will — he will be able to veto any legislation passed. Having his support will be vital to reforming our broken education system, and Wicks is much more likely to have that support.
In addition, Wicks is much more connected within the state legislature. She has been endorsed by six current members of the state Assembly and two current members of the state Senate. Beckles has been endorsed by a grand total of zero Senators or Assemblymembers. If elected, Wicks would have multiple experienced legislators on her side from the get-go, to co-sponsor her bills and help push them through an often obstinate legislature. Even if you find Beckles a vastly superior candidate in terms of policy, she is undeniably lacking in the statewide connections needed to pass those policies.
Beckles is also not a vastly superior candidate in terms of policy. Her views on most issues are identical to those of Wicks. The choice voters face this November is not between the left and the right. It is between a shrewd politician who can get smart reforms passed, and a candidate who is none of that. Buffy Wicks is clearly the right choice.