Berkeley Unified pushes for reparations for Black students

Berkeley Unified School District is aiming to become the first school district in the U.S. to offer reparations to Black students following a task force meeting.

The Berkeley community is intending to create a task force to study paying reparations to African-American students who were the descendants of slaves, according to the California school district’s website. 

"In response to the legacy of the system of enslaving Black people on American soil, BUSD seeks to establish a program of true reparations for BUSD students with ancestors who were enslaved in the U.S. To do so, two key questions of implementation need to be answered: how to pay for such a program and how to structure and implement it. BUSD is creating the Reparations Task Force to provide recommendations in response to these questions," the website read.


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"More specifically, the Task Force will be directed to provide a written set of recommendations by January 2024 on how to fund or finance a true reparations program for BUSD students with ancestors who were enslaved in the U.S. The Task Force may then be subsequently directed to provide a written set of recommendations (by a date to be decided) on how to structure and implement such a program," it continued. 

This announcement followed a nine-member task force formed by Gov. Gavin Newsom providing projections for how to provide reparations for slavery to Black residents in December. The team found that to close the gap caused by housing discrimination would require paying over $200,000 per Black citizen. 

Estimates from other economists found that enacting reparations could cost the state approximately $800 billion, nearly triple the state’s $300 billion annual budget.

The BUSD boasted its experience as the first major school district to desegregate schools as well as the city of Berkeley already launching efforts to study reparations as an example.

"However, no ‘true’ reparations program for descendants of enslaved people currently exists at the federal, state, or local level. It is time for that to change; BUSD can and should lead such a change," the website read.

The task force will be made up of approximately 15-20 members, including two board members, two central office staff members, one high school teacher, one elementary or middle school teacher, one classified staff member and 8-13 community members, including one student.

The first online community meeting to find potential members will be conducted over Zoom on Thursday. The first meeting of the task force will be held on April 24.