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California school district aims to be the first district to offer reparations to black students

Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A California school district is planning to become the first district in the country to offer reparations to black students.

Berkeley Unified School District is hosting a virtual informational meeting on Thursday to create a task force that will study providing reparations in the form of cash payments to black students who are the descendants of enslaved people.

"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 district's website states.

It added that the community pushed for the formation of a task force following the death of George Floyd.

The new BUSD Reparations Task Force comprises 15 to 20 people, including two board members, two district office staff, three school site staff, one classified staff member, and eight to 13 community members. Individuals on the task force, including "local civic and religious leaders, BUSD families, former BUSD Board members, and BUSD staff (on their personal time)."

The group will be tasked with researching "existing examples of reparations, discussions of policy and legal considerations."

"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 district's website reads.

By January 2024, the task force is expected to provide written recommendations on how to finance the program. Then, at a later date, which has yet to be determined, the task force will provide recommendations on how to implement the program.

The district is still seeking community members and at least one student to serve on the reparations task force. Its first meeting is scheduled for April 24.

Even though California was never a slave state, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation in 2020 to form the state's Reparations Task Force, a nine-member panel responsible for developing detailed reparation recommendations. The group's 2022 preliminary report found that black California residents are due approximately $569 billion, or $223,200 each.

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