Parents United Endorses Clarissa Doutherd for School Board in District 4

This election, there is only one contested school board race (District 4), because the Directors in District 2 (Aimee Eng) and District 6 (Shanthi Gonzales) are running for re-election unopposed. In37837582_1868140883492147_8946067189920694272_n District 4, Director Nina Senn has decided not to run again, a courageous choice given the last decade of poor decision-making and misplaced priorities of our Board. OUSD kids need change, not more of the same. Director Senn’s decision means that we now have the opportunity to elect a dynamic new school board member who can bring policy-making and fiscal experience, along with a history of strong leadership and grassroots organizing to the board, and we are excited to endorse Clarissa Doutherd for the job.

OUSD parents, educators and students are only too aware that the district has had years of fiscal mismanagement which resulted in $50 million in budget reductions and cuts over the last two years, and a projected $60 million more to come in the next two. This mismanagement is not new; the 2013-14 Alameda County Grand Jury found year after year, the district has repeated errors that continue to threaten the education of its students. While progress seems to have been made with the required audits, the students of OUSD will continue to suffer until OUSD gets its financial house in order.”  (emphasis added) This, after OUSD was taken over by the state in 2003 and local control was restored in 2009. Oakland families know that this is a deeply rooted and long-standing problem that will take vision, determination and community support to resolve.

That is exactly why Parents United is endorsing Clarissa Doutherd for School Board in District 4. Clarissa has experience with fiduciary oversight and building strong organizations. As the Executive Director of Parent Voices Oakland (“PVO”), a non-profit organization advocating for early childhood education and affordable childcare, Clarissa has increased the organization’s budget by 1,100% while successfully winning legislation to help children and families.

According to Doutherd, the key to that growth was “smart investments and strong fiscal management,” along with an emphasis on investing in the community, which she says “runs counter to the idea that total austerity saves organizations.” She said her budgetary experiences at PVO have prepared her to handle the school district’s difficult fiscal situation. “I know how to balance a budget, I know how to read financial statements, I know how to deliver results through financial challenges and transition in organizations,” she said. (Oakland North, 9/28/2018)

Clarissa has advocated for early education at the local and state level for many years, working closely with our state legislative delegation: Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymen Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond (who is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction). They have all endorsed Clarissa as the candidate most qualified to represent District 4.

I am proud to endorse Clarissa Doutherd for Oakland School Board District 4. In working closely with her on education issues at the State level, I have seen the strength of her leadership and her capacity to deliver results. Our community turns to her on the tough issues, and can count on her vision, integrity, and organizing skill to lead us into the future. She will fight to restore fiscal accountability and put kids and families first. Our schools are fundamental and every child deserves the opportunity to realize their dreams and meet their full potential– that’s why I support Clarissa Doutherd for the future of our public schools in Oakland. – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (Clarissa’s endorsement page)

They are not alone in supporting Clarissa, she has also been endorsed by the educators of  the Oakland Education Association, the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, the service employees of SEIU Local 1021, the East Bay Women’s Political Alliance, the Alameda Labor Council – which represents 135,000 working families in the county — and many more. In fact, Clarissa has received every major organizational endorsement to date (with the exception of  billionaire-backed GO Public Schools) from political, labor, parent and community organizations as the candidate best suited to meet the district’s fiscal challenges while truly putting students, families and educators at the center.

And that would be a new direction for the board. Parents, families and educators across the District have long decried the lack of participatory governing in OUSD, which has instead chosen a paternalistic, “we know what’s best” approach to governance. Clarissa is an OUSD parent – her son Xavier goes to Laurel Elementary School – but she is also, at heart, a parent organizer who works everyday in partnership with a myriad of stakeholders to create change, and that is what she will bring to OUSD’s board.

Doutherd is also campaigning on the promise of being a new type of voice on the school board. “It’s been sort of very top-down, and administrators and superintendents and the school board leadership telling community what they deserve and what should happen, rather than really working in partnership with the community,” Doutherd said. She says she will bring her leadership style—“collaborative, participatory, one that is really rooted and grounded in community leadership”—to the board. (Oakland North)

Clarissa understands that one of the most important keys to building strong and stable community schools is to retain good educators, and that is why she is supported by teachers, nurses and other represented staff members. OUSD has a teacher retention crisis that is negatively impacting our students. Educators are underpaid, under-supported and overworked, and after more than a year, still do not have a contract. Clarissa supports teachers as professionals and is committed to prioritizing a contract that allows them to live in Oakland and supports them so that they can focus on our students.

For all these reasons and more, Parents United proudly supports Clarissa Doutherd for District 4 School Board. It is time to move forward, not make the same choices that led us to this point. Clarissa’s collaborative leadership and dynamic energy and vision are a contrast to her opponent, long-time retired school board member and former interim superintendent Gary Yee. Dr Yee has dedicated his life to education in Oakland, and for that we have great appreciation. But Dr. Yee is also a big part of the long history of paternalistic, top down, “color inside the lines”  district leadership that overspent, underinvested and generally failed to institute strong fiscal policy in the District.  Our children need change, and we believe that that Clarissa Doutherd is the leader who will fight for them.



Read more about Clarissa Doutherd here.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Volunteer on her website or on Facebook.





What’s Really Going on With BP 6006?

As we have communicated previously, the school board is considering a policy put forth by Director Harris, Board Policy 6006 (previously called the “System of Schools Policy”), which we believe is intended to be the legislative embodiment of GO Public Schools’ 1Oakland campaign – a transfer of District resources to charter schools. Several board members have sought to assure us that that is NOT the intent of BP 6006, yet the Board is planning to vote on proposed changes to the language this Wednesday that will leave the door wide open for the transfer of OUSD facilities, revenue, and enrollment to the charter industry.

In an effort to take some members of the Board at their word that BP 6006 is actually an effort to assure excellent schools for ALL Oakland students, we have worked with a group of community allies to craft amendments to 6006.  It is our belief that whether the Board incorporates these common-sense amendments or not will tell us what’s really going on here: does the Board have the integrity to pass a policy that works toward accomplishing their stated goal, or are they using feel-good rhetoric to once again disguise their actual political intent.

Our letter to the Board is below, and our proposed changes to BP 6006 are here. Please take a moment to email the Board asking them to incorporate these changes into BP 6006 before they vote on Wednesday. You can find their emails here.

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It Matters Who (Doesn’t) Get Chosen

There is a lot of discussion in Oakland about Charter schools, we have 42 charter schools in Oakland (approved by both OUSD and the County Office of Education), and charter students represent 30% of all students enrolled district or charter schools, more than any other district in the state.  That heavy concentration comes with a cost – $57 million according to a recent ITPI report. But it’s not just about a dollar amount, it’s also about serving kids, all kids, regardless of what kind of services they might need. That is what a public school does.

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So we wondered, what would it look like if we compared the student populations of two schools that are co-located on one campus? It’s not always easy to find two schools, of the same grade levels, in the same neighborhood, but we have that “apples to apples” comparison in deep East Oakland, in a neighborhood that has suffered from generations of disinvestment and deep trauma. How would the students at these two high schools, one district, one charter, be the same, or different?

The District school is bigger, but not that big for a comprehensive high school – 860 compared to 420 for the Charter school. They both have about the same percentage of students receiving Free or Reduced Price Lunch, about 92%.  The District school serves twice as many Latinx as African-American students, with a sprinkling of other demographic groups, but not many. Why then is the Charter school in this same neighborhood made up of more than 90% Latinx but just 6.6% African-American students?

Oakland has many students that have very specialized needs, including special education, unhoused students, newcomers and English learners. These students need critical, and often more costly, services that a public school must provide, should provide in order to educate the whole child.  And in the case of our co-located schools, the District school has a larger percentage of these students in every single category.


Special education: District school 14%, Charter school 9%; Unhoused students: District school 15.28%, Charter school 2.2%; English Learners: District school 43%, Charter school 28%; Newcomers: District school 32% (estimated from current enrollment information); Charter school 9%


The leader of a local Charter Advocacy group looked at this data and said:

This is who those schools house. Look at the dashboard for performance. I can 100% guarantee you that the charter outperforms across the board. It does. Especially with grad rates. You can make the argument that all of those district kids would be better served in the charter.

The point wasn’t about performance, it was about who is (or is not) being educated in those schools. Instead of acknowledging that, recognizing the impact on OUSD schools of concentrating the highest need students in the District, recognizing that outcomes can be stymied by the under-resourcing of schools this concentration causes, and looking for equitable solutions, this charter advocate, who is pushing for OUSD to share parcel taxes and rent-free facilities with Charter schools that pick and choose who they educate, this advocate says “but what about the test scores?”

What about serving all kids?

Let’s be very clear so there is no question: we believe strongly that OUSD must do better to improve outcomes for kids, and that is especially true for the kids in schools like this District school, who have been underserved for generations.  But we must also acknowledge that, for our district schools and the students in them, it matters who (doesn’t) get chosen by charters.

Data taken from the website, EdSource and the publicly available Charter School Profile 

Contact OUSD Directors: DON’T give away District facilities & funding to charter schools!

The Board will be considering a new Board Policy 6006 on Wednesday which will attempt to eliminate the distinction between District and Charter schools and give away resources, including facilities and funds, to charter schools. The idea is to create a “System of Schools” – a “hybrid” district made up of District schools and District-authorized charter schools – and streamline this System of Schools by:

  • closing or consolidating schools, and
  • reallocating “all OUSD resources, facilities, and assets” from closed/consolidated OUSD schools to this System of Schools, including charter schools.

The Board has very little power under California law to close charter schools (or prevent them from opening, for that matter) to suit this System of Schools. So, at its heart, this is a proposal to close district schools and redirect much needed funds from those District schools to charter schools. The District is already not properly exercising its statutorily required oversight of charter schools, and that failure has hurt district students and charter students alike. District schools have already been heavily impacted by mid-year budget cuts this year and last. Diverting more funds will devastate our District schools and students..

Parents United has written a letter to the Board requesting that they vote NO on this blatant land and money grab by the well-funded backers of charter schools in Oakland and across the country, you can read our letter below.
Join Parents United in opposition to proposed Board Policy 6006 by contacting your school board members TODAY (click for contact information) before this Wednesday’s board meeting. Tell the directors that you expect them to STAND UP for our schools and our students, exercise appropriate OVERSIGHT of charter schools to ensure they are serving all students, and VOTE NO on this blatant attempt to divert much needed resources from our District schools to privately managed and minimally accountable charter schools!


Here is our letter to the Board:

Dear Directors,

This letter is written regarding proposed Board Policy 6006 put forth by Director Harris entitled “Quality School Development: System of Schools”. The policy is redundant, unenforceable and possibly illegal, and we urge you to vote No on this item.

Director Harris proposes seeking to regulate what he refers to as “OUSD’s hybrid system of schools” which is defined in a prior paragraph as being made up of 122 schools – 87 OUSD district-run schools and 35 OUSD authorized charter schools. Although Director Harris refers in the opening paragraph to Charters authorized by Alameda County, they are not included in the “hybrid” system of schools proposed in this Board Policy.

According to the proposed Policy, a “lack of guidance has left OUSD without a clear framework for 1) how OUSD-run and OUSD-authorized charter schools co-exist, 2) the total number of OUSD-run schools and OUSD-authorized charter schools, 3) the size of elementary, middle, high, and alternative schools, and 4) how schools are introduced to and eliminated from the OUSD system of schools.”

According to Director Harris, if the Superintendent creates a framework for the “reallocation of all OUSD resources, facilities and assets”, creates a decision-making matrix for determining how many and how big schools will be held in this “hybrid” system of schools and then acts “boldly” to expand, merge or close schools (District and charter), these actions will “increase the quality of education across both district and charter sectors and … provide the highest quality education at every school site in each Oakland neighborhood.”

Every child deserves a high quality education, and there are District and Charter schools that both achieve and fall short of that noble goal. The problem with Director Harris’ analysis, however, is that he overlooks the very critical fact that this Board cannot dictate to charter schools authorized by you (and certainly not to those authorized by the County or State) that they take any of the actions that the Board Policy seeks to compel, and therefore is misleading, meaningless and may possibly be in violation of the California Education Code sections 47600 et seq.

Director Harris declared just last year that we needed a “pause” in new charter schools to allow us to work through budget difficulties and the Blueprint process, but charters continue to seek approval (from the District, the County and/or the State) and district “partners” continue to develop new charters to present in the coming years. Even Director Harris has acknowledged there is really nothing that you as a Board can do to change that. The Board is also extremely limited in its ability (or willingness) to close charter schools, and that will continue to be true, even if you adopt this policy.

Board Policy 6005 entitled “Quality School Development” adopted in 2013 already provides that OUSD provides a “continuum of high quality schools” explicitly defined as “including schools that are directly operated by the OUSD; public charter schools authorized by the Oakland Unified School District; and schools funded by, but are not exclusively operated by the Oakland Unified School District.” This proposed Board Policy 6006 is duplicative and redundant to the Quality School Development Policy and is, as demonstrated above, unenforceable as proposed. It would also hurt our kids already suffering from mid-year budget cuts this year and last.

Instead of introducing vague policy that is unenforceable, double-down on your efforts to be a  better authorizer, giving the charter office the staffing and tools they need to adequately fulfill their oversight function and hold charter schools to the promises they make to the District and Oakland students. We encourage you to continue to work with our legislators to support common sense accountability measures and to expand your ability to be the only body empowered to determine where and when charter schools should open or close to best serve the needs of all Oakland students. We must ensure that charter schools are accessible to all, serve the needs of all, and are not excluding students with special needs.

We urge you to vote “NO” on proposed Board Policy 6006.

Parents United for Public Schools

Take Action to Help Return $6 Million a Year to OUSD!

Did you know that Oakland spends $6M a year on debt payments to the state? This is money that could be used to stabilize the district and put needed fiscal infrastructure in place.  Parents United has been working with the Free2Learn Committee — an ad hoc, grassroots, parent-led coalition working in partnership with community-based organizations — to ask our legislators to stand with Oakland. We ask that instead of continuing to take these funds out of Oakland, the state instead allow Oakland to invest these funds in specific ways that will improve fiscal accountability—and accountability to students, parents and community.

The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) has pointed to key vulnerabilities in OUSD’s fiscal health and accountability.  We believe that our new superintendent and staff are working on addressing the issues raised—but this has resulted in deep cuts that are only hurting the district more.  Instead, our current loan payments of $6 million a year could be used to support long-term fiscal stability.  The Free2Learn Committee is setting up meetings with key legislators to discuss this strategy — but they need to know there is broad community support.  Our hope is that parents, community groups, district staff and legislative partners can use a small amount of the state’s current surplus to erase OUSD’s debt.

You can help by writing or calling your legislators today:

Tell them you want to stand with Oakland to ask that crippling debt payments be directed instead to key investments in fiscal accountability, and accountability to Oakland students, parents and community.

The suggested e-mail text is below:

Dear [Legislator Name],

During a time of state surplus, we respectfully ask you to stand with Oakland Parents to remove barriers that remain in our path towards fiscal vitality required for all students to succeed in Oakland!  We need support from the State through debt cancellation to fully implement the district’s Financial Stability Plan and Budget – which goes beyond the concerns outlined in the FCMAT report and are focused creating a culture of fiscal transparency and accountability.

I am writing to you as an Oakland parent who has seen first-hand the impact the crippling state debt and massive school cuts have had on my child and all vulnerable children in Oakland as schools report running out of paper, losing literacy coaches and other essential staff. We need to be able to protect and prioritize our kids from these draconian cuts.

Over the past year hundreds of parents have organized to demand financial accountability in the district and we’ve made incredible progress towards that end. I recognize that past OUSD leaders failed to ensure OUSD’s financial health with disastrous consequences – but we’ve turned over a new leaf, winning a new home-grown Superintendent with the demonstrated fiscal leadership needed to get us solvent once and for all.

Our new leaders are committed to and understand – putting a solid fiscal infrastructure in place – is the only way to permanently exit the cycle of mismanagement, crisis, and painful school site cuts that prevents funds from getting to the most vulnerable children who need those resources to learn and grow.

You can find more information about the #Free2Learn campaign here.

Will Charter School Budgets Also Be Cut?

We have been getting this question a lot in the last few weeks: “Will charter school budgets also be cut like OUSD school budgets?” The answer is NO. Below is a quick, and somewhat simplified, primer on how charter schools affect the District’s budget.

Both district-run public schools and charter schools receive the vast majority of their state funding based on Average Daily Acartoon_6-4ttendance (ADA). For most charter schools, this funding flows directly to the charter from the state, not through the district’s budget.  When a student attends a charter school, rather than a district school, the ADA funds follow that student to the charter school.

You might think, and the charter lobby will have you think, that this is a net neutral equation for the district’s budget: the money follows the student and, since the district no longer has to educate that student, they don’t experience an impact to their budget. However, this isn’t how it plays out in reality, where students leaving the district for charter schools actually represent a loss in revenue for the District, but not an equal reduction in expenses.

For example, if a new charter elementary school opens, students who attend that school could come from any of half a dozen District-run elementary schools nearby.  These students leave a few seats empty in many District classrooms, but represent very little reduction in expenses because the District still has to pay for a teacher for each class, the same Principal, the same electricity and heat bills, the same library/front office/support/cafeteria staff, the same buildings and grounds costs, etc.

What this means is that students who stay in those public schools are forced to make do with less, despite having higher needs. The schools most impacted by charter schools in Oakland are also our highest poverty schools, with the highest concentrations of special education students, English language learners, and newcomer students. Obviously, this is not equity.

We were encouraged earlier this month when the OUSD Board voted 6-1 to reject a new charter high school from the charter chain Education for Change, and Board President James Harris called for a “pause” on new charter school petitions for the next 21 months. After years of encouraging and approving charter schools, the Board finally seems to understand that we need to invest in OUSD, and can’t afford any new charter schools. OUSD parents, students and community must continue to push for this position.

Want to learn more about the effects of charter schools and corporate-backed school reform on our public schools? Join us on Monday, December 11th at 6:30pm at Tech for a free screening of the documentary “Backpack Full of Cash,” which explores the growing privatization of public schools and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children. Filmed in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Nashville and other cities, BACKPACK FULL OF CASH takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013-14 school year, exposing the world of corporate-driven education “reform” where public education — starved of resources — hangs in the balance. Sound familiar? Watch the trailer here.

Tell the OUSD Board to Protect the District’s Properties!

While OUSD parents, students and staff were busy packing up classrooms, enjoying the first few days of summer, and cheering on the Warriors (!!!), the OUSD School Board posted the agenda for this Wednesday’s board meeting. Not only is the Board voting to approve a proposed contract for new Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell (which starts her salary at the same level as her predecessor Antwan Wilson, meaning we are still paying top-level execs way too much in OUSD), but the Board plans to vote to endorse legislation that will give more of our publicly-owned property away to privately-managed charter schools!oppose_3

SB 765 (sponsored by San Francisco State Senator Scott Weiner), requires that before a school district sells or leases surplus property, it must first offer the surplus property – at below market rate – to a charter school, unless the property is being used for teacher housing. The bill reinstates an old law, which expired last year.  While the old law only required districts to offer district property “designed to provide direct instruction or instructional support” to charter schools, SB 765 does not include that distinction, making ALL surplus district property up-for-grabs to charter schools.

It is surprising that the OUSD Board’s legislative committee is recommending a vote to support this legislation and give away more local control over the District’s resources. This is especially concerning as the District embarks upon the “Blueprint for Quality Schools” which may result in the closure of school campuses, because this bill would inhibit what the District can do with that property. The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the California School Board Association (CSBA), the California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO), San Diego Unified School District, San Francisco Unified School District, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the California School Employees Association, the California Labor Federation, and several other smaller school districts are all recommending a vote AGAINST SB 765, and so should OUSD.

Please call and/or email the OUSD Directors today, and urge them to vote to OPPOSE SB 765.

In related good news, the Board’s legislative committee is recommending a vote to SUPPORT two important pieces of charter accountability legislation: SB 808 (sponsored by Senator Mendoza), which would change the charter authorization process so that only local school districts where a charter is located can serve as charter authorizers; and AB 1478 (sponsored by Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer), which would make charter schools follow the same open meeting, public records and conflict of interest laws as school districts. When you call and email the OUSD Board to oppose SB 765, please encourage them to SUPPORT SB 808 and AB 1478.