Election 2020: Who is Michael Chang?

Meet Michael Chang, one of six Berkeley School Board candidates in Berkeley’s November 2020 election.

Michael Chang school board
Michael Chang. Photo: Chang campaign

Name: Michael Chang, 50, federal education law civil rights attorney and Cal Ethnic Studies and Legal Studies lecturer

What office/district are you are running for? Berkeley School Board

What is the main reason you are running? I have three kids in the District with 10 years of volunteerism and work as V.P. of a PTA executive committee. I am running to bring my education law expertise to the district to prioritize equity and quality. I seek to implement a district-wide Restorative Justice program to address sex harassment and race inequity; retain and attract the best teachers; and support full public funding for our schools.

Why are you qualified? I have 16 years of experience as a government education law civil rights attorney and Cal lecturer n Ethnic Studies and Legal Studies. I am also a commissioner on the Police Review Commission. I know how to build consensus with stakeholders and craft policies and procedures for systemic change. With SIP we need an education law attorney who knows how to navigate the complex equity and quality issues raised with remote learning. We don’t want to reproduce or worsen inequity nor sacrifice long-term quality.


What sets you apart from other candidates? I am the only candidate with an education law background, a qualification directly relevant to the running of a school district particularly during the challenging time of SIP. I have experience in remedying sex harassment concerns as well as remedying race disparities in outcomes in school districts. With a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies I understand the language, values and pedagogy behind equity and inclusion, which are directly relevant to Restorative Justice which I will push to be implemented across the district. I have implemented many different policies and procedures at districts across the state and thus know the difference between effective and ineffective policies. I am the only candidate who offers education and civil rights law experience with being a teacher myself and a foundation in equity and inclusion frameworks associated with Ethnic Studies.

What brought you to Berkeley and when did you come? I came out here 25 years ago to study at Cal’s Ph.D. program in Ethnic Studies and fell in love. My family and I found a community here through schools and have great respect for the parents, teachers and staff who make up the district and are our close friends. I want to serve to ensure Berkeley’s progressive future as a national model of an equitable and quality public education. CA gave me a great public graduate education and I want to make that accessible for district students.

What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Long term equity and quality in BUSD must be prioritized to ensure that the consequences of SIP are turned into an opportunity for change and not a cause for long-term harm. Secondly, we need to work with the city, other school districts and the governor’s office to roll back public education cuts. Finally, the sex harassment and race disparity issues must be addressed head-on with a robust district-wide Restorative Justice program lead by an able associate superintendent and Title IX team.

What are your ideas to begin to solve them? My work on the Board will be to direct the Board’s priorities to that of equity and quality as shared values. A housing trust for affordable homeownership for teachers and staff is long overdue and I will advocate to create such a trust. I will work closely with the superintendent and board members to implement a district-wide, robust Restorative Justice program with appropriate policies and procedures supported by trained counseling staff available to all schools and coordinated by an associate superintendent.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? A housing trust, while my most inspired idea for the District is not unique as it is commonly used by universities and colleges to recruit and retain the best faculty. We must do the same for BUSD to retain and recruit the best teachers and staff to support equity and quality. Both Board members who are stepping down, President Judy Appel and Beatriz Levya-Cutler, have endorsed and support my candidacy. I seek to extend their work on equity and quality.


How will you be accessible to constituents? As a lecturer, I take pride in being accessible. I will hold office hours and will be readily available by email and by requests for video conversation.

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $10,000-$12,000

Share a personal interest or passion people might be surprised to learn about. I enjoy oil painting and have been doing so since I was six years old. In particular, I enjoy painting portraiture of both persons and animals. The experience of engaging with a subject and trying to capture the essence of that subject is meditative and inspiring.

Learn more about Michael Chang online: Website

Read more about Michael Chang on Berkeleyside. See complete 2020 election coverage on Berkeleyside.