The County Board of Education and County Office of Education have the responsibility to educate the most at risk students in Alameda County.
The students are either expelled from local schools or incarcerated. The overwhelming majority of them are African American and Latino.
This is an awesome task. Yet for years, the County Board of Education refuse to provide Special Education services, used Special Education dollars to support other programs, and maintained a nine percent reserve in the budget, when only three percent is required by the State. The lack of Special Education services to students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) is a gross violation of Federal and State statutes, and worse yet, a violation of the students' civil rights to a free and equal public education. In addition, the use of Special Education funds to support other programs is fraudulent. Clearly, students have not been the focus for the Board.
In 1999, the County Office of Education administration started to provide Special Education services to students in County programs and schools and comply with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
When I was elected to the County Board of Education District 3 with 62 percent of the vote, my constituents gave me a mandate clamoring for change.
Therefore, I was determined to have the Board focus on students. But since July 1, 2000, the Board's majority has consistently engaged in petty politics of division and intimidation to squelch any opposition. I am now even more determined to focus the Board on students after eighteen months filled with acrimony and receiving an e-mail message from Jerome Wiggins, Trustee Area 1, expressing his disappointment with my support for his opponent Jacki Fox Ruby. Trustee Area 1 covers Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, and North Oakland.
The First Amendment grants us freedom of speech and association. We are free to support any political candidate and issue, and belong to any political organization. But Mr. Wiggins, a resident of Berkeley, the cradle of freedom of speech, has resorted to insults and intimidation to stop me from exercising my rights under the First Amendment. Clearly, he is out of touch with the communities he purports to represent.
As a member of the Metropolitan Greater Oakland Democratic Club, I have been active to gain votes for candidates I support for the March 5 election. Mr. Wiggins may disagree with my support for his opponent, but his uncivil demeanor is unacceptable.
Enrique E. Palacios
Alameda County Board of Education