By ALI TADAYON | firstname.lastname@example.org | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: May 29, 2019 at 2:10 pm | UPDATED: May 30, 2019 at 2:41 pm
OAKLAND — After three years, Oakland Promise — Mayor Libby Schaaf’s multifaceted initiative to significantly increase the number of college graduates from the city — is moving out of her office, merging with the East Bay College Fund and becoming a nonprofit.
The new entity will keep the Oakland Promise name, but take over the East Bay College Fund’s nonprofit status. Mialisa Bonta, president of the Alameda Unified School Board and wife of Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, will take on the role of chief executive officer.
Oakland Promise spokeswoman Maggie Croushore said the merger will make it easier for families to access the “cradle-to-career” programs offered by both organizations. Moving out of the mayor’s office also will help ensure that the program continues long after Schaaf leaves office, Croushore said.
The Oakland Promise includes several programs, including “Brilliant Baby,” in which babies born into poverty in Oakland are provided $500 college savings accounts. Oakland Promise also offers $100 “college starter scholarships” to kindergartners and first-graders, and financial coaching to parents. The East Bay College Fund, founded in 2003, offers students scholarships and mentoring, according to a news release from the Oakland Promise.
Each year, fewer than 500 former Oakland public school seniors graduate from college within six years of finishing high school, according to the Oakland Promise’s website.
Bonta, in an interview, said Oakland Promise’s leaders hope the new status will allow them to expand the program to serve even more students. With an operating budget of $10 million — made up of donations, much of which comes from Bay Area businesses and philanthropic funds — the organization aims to award 3,000 college savings accounts, 5,000 scholarships to elementary students sponsor 10,000 high school students and support 3,750 college students by 2025, Bonta said.
“One of the reasons I’m so excited to take on this role is because in terms of my upbringing, I’m very much like the Oakland Promise children that we serve,” Bonta said. “I was one of the first in my family to go to college, raised by a single mom, and had to move 13 times growing up. Had it not been for having access to people who gave me the idea that college was something I needed to do in order to succeed, my life would have taken a different turn,” she said.
When the Oakland Promise was housed in the mayor’s office, it was managed by David Silver — the mayor’s education director. Silver will remain a non-voting member of Oakland Promise’s governing board, as will Schaaf and Oakland Unified Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. The governing board of the new entity will include 15 members of both the East Bay College Fund and the Oakland Promise, and includes East Bay College Fund founder Barb Fremder, PolicyLink CEO Michael McAfee, and others.
Eventually combining the organizations has been the plan since the Oakland Promise first launched, Croushore said. She said it was not sparked by the controversy over Measure AA— a $198-per-house, $135-per-apartment annual parcel tax measure on last November’s ballot intended to boost funding for Oakland Promise. Despite the measure falling short of the two-thirds majority that Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s official summary and impartial analysis said it needed to pass, the City Council declared that it had passed, because it only needed a simple majority of yes votes. That declaration prompted the Jobs and Housing Coalition and others to sue the city, and the City Council voted in April not to collect the parcel tax during the first year while the court makes a decision as to how many votes the measure needed.