Parents United for Public Schools Statement on the Departure of OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson

Parents United for Public Schools released the following statement on the announced departure of OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson:

“The departure of Superintendent Antwan Wilson midway through his contract to lead our schools presents Oakland with a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past, and select a new leader who is committed to making a difference in our students’ lives and who will stay in Oakland long enough to see those changes through.

“The past two years have seen a decline in enrollment while upper-level administrative salaries have skyrocketed more than 500%. Major changes in the Programs for Exceptional Children and Student Enrollment have come without meaningful input from parents, teachers, staff or community, and the departure of long time administrators has further destabilized the district. Planning for major district initiatives has been made in closed meetings with charter leaders, but without input from our public school community. It is time for our District to put our public schools first by hiring a superintendent who believes in our public school system, who will work to create true community schools that will support and educate the whole child, and who will stay at least long enough to see those changes through.

“We call on the School Board to conduct an open and transparent search for a new superintendent in partnership with those most impacted by District policies: students, parents, teachers, staff and true community-based organizations. Our children deserve a leader with deep connections to Oakland, a strong belief in its public schools and a commitment to following through with the transformation of OUSD as a quality full-service community school district.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Oakland PTA Leaders Denounce Misleading Election Campaign

For Immediate Release

November 6, 2014

Contact: Kimi Lee, Melrose Leadership Academy PTSA President, 213-864-1744

Kim Davis, Parents United for Public Schools, 510-219-0950

Oakland PTA Leaders Denounce Misleading Election Campaign

Wall Street & Silicon Valley Billionaires Using Deceptive Name to Mislead Voters

Oakland, CA: On election eve, current and former Parent Teacher Association (PTA) leaders from a number of schools within the Oakland Unified School District are speaking out against a misleading campaign by Wall Street & Silicon Valley billionaires trying to influence local school board elections.

The special interest campaign, which is flooding local school board elections with outside money, is being heralded by a Super PAC that calls itself the Parent Teacher Alliance.  This appears to be an attempt to confuse voters and dupe them into thinking that the campaign is being supported by the more traditional non-profit & non-partisan Parent Teacher Association. Concerned by the apparently intentional similarities between the name selected by the political Parent Teacher Alliance and that of the non-profit PTA, the California PTA put out a press release in June of this year informing voters that the Super PAC is not connected to the Parent Teacher Association.

“We believe they are using the name ‘Parent Teacher Alliance’ to mislead voters. Oakland schools are not for sale, and Oakland parent leaders will not stand by while these outside billionaires attempt to mislead voters,” stated Kimi Lee, the President of the PTSA of Melrose Leadership Academy.

PTA and PTSA leaders from schools throughout Oakland released the following statement:

As leaders and members in the Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), Parent Teacher Student Associations (PTSA) and Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) at public schools throughout Oakland, we stand in opposition to the misleading campaigning by the Parent Teacher Alliance.

The Parent Teacher Association is a national non-profit organization with branches in every state and region that serves all students and never endorses political candidates. It is trusted by parents, teachers and communities throughout California (and the country) as a voice for public schools and children.  By contrast, the similarly named Super PAC “Parent Teacher Alliance” is a political organization sponsored and funded by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, which floods communities with outside money from Wall Street and Silicon Valley billionaires in order to convince voters to support their endorsed school board candidates. 

The National and California PTA have expressed concerns about the apparently deliberate similarities between the naming of the Super PAC and the PTA, issuing a “cease and desist” letter and a statement that the use of the name “gives an appearance … that seems to trade on the credibility and reputation” of the PTA, causing public “confusion.” We join with the PTA in protesting the misleading and continued use by the Parent Teacher Alliance of a name which causes voter confusion and may result in unintended and unfair outcomes.

As the Chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission we demand that you ensure voters are not misled in this election, and future elections, by prohibiting this Super PAC from using the Parent Teacher Alliance name. This Super PAC is NOT affiliated with the PTA and there are many parents, including the undersigned, who oppose its involvement in our school board elections in this unfair manner.

Signed**:

Kimi Lee, President, Melrose Leadership Academy PTSA

Etel Calles, Vice President, Melrose Leadership Academy PTSA

Linda Handy, President, Kaiser Elementary School PTA

Christy Getz, President, Edna Brewer Middle School PTSA

Ben Visnick, Treasurer & Past President, Oakland High School PTSA

Esther Gulli, First Vice President, Montera Middle School PTO

Yulanda Young Smith, Co-President, Crocker Highlands PTA

Jennifer Houser, Volunteer Coordinator, Melrose Leadership Academy PTSA

Liz Suk, Room Parent Coordinator, Melrose Leadership Academy PTSA

Joel Velasquez, Former President, Westlake Middle School PTSA

Ramon Nasol, Former Parliamentarian, Vice President & President, Joaquin Miller Elementary School PTA

Kristen Caven, Past President, Oakland Technical High School PTSA

Cathy Shadd Rosenfeld, Former Historian, Oakland Technical High School PTSA

April Schlenk, Former Co-Chair, Sequoia Elementary School PTO (FOSS)

Nancy Murr, Former VP of Communications, Oakland Technical High School PTSA

Guy Spencer, Past President, Montera PTO & Past Executive Vice President, Joaquin Miller Elementary School PTA

Melinda Gallagher, Past Secretary, Kaiser Elementary School PTA

** Titles for identification purposes only

The Oakland parent leaders have also put the statement online as a petition for other PTA members and leaders to sign at the following URL: http://bit.ly/StopMisleadingParents.

###

Embracing The Billionaires’ Agenda

While Oakland parents and our community have decried out-of-town Billionaires spending big in our school board races, including former Republican Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, the Super PAC that received the contribution, and the candidates benefiting from it, have not.

In fact:

  • The Board Chair of GO Public Schools Advocates, the Super PAC that received Bloomberg’s $300,000 said the organization is “proud” to have received the contribution.
  •  Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, who has benefited from GO’s Super PAC spending to the tune of $45,856, told the East Bay Times that she and GO’s Billionaire donors “have similar values.”
  • GO-endorsed candidates James Harris & Huber Trenado, who have benefited from Bloomberg and other big-money contributions from GO’s Super PAC at current totals of $85,434 and $65,568 respectively, have claimed no knowledge of the spending. However, they also haven’t denounced this big money, or the agenda it brings to Oakland.

So, this begs the question: what are Michael Bloomberg’s values?

As Mayor, Michael Bloomberg sought and received control of the schools from the elected school board. Under mayoral control:
  • Nearly 140 schools were closed, including many that had been opened during his tenure.
  • Only 13% of students of color graduated from high school ready for college (according to NY Department of Education data).
  • Mayor Bloomberg famously declared that doubling class sizes “would be a good deal for students”.
  • Bloomberg also disparaged parents who were protesting the closure of their children’s school as lacking in formal schooling and therefore unable to “understand the value of education“.

Are these education policies that GO is proud of and Director Hinton-Hodge shares? Will James Harris or Huber Trenado denounce them?

Mayor Bloomberg was also responsible for the racist “Stop and Frisk” policy in New York that resulted in 4.4 million often innocent people of color being harassed. The practice was found unconstitutional because 83% of those stopped were people of color, despite only representing 58% of the population. In a study of stops in 2011, 9 out of 10 of the stop and frisk victims were not arrested.
When will GO Public Schools Advocates, Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, James Harris, and Huber Trenado denounce these donations, and the agenda they are trying to push on Oakland schools?
Oakland deserves better than this. Vote for The People’s Slate on Tuesday.
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Republican Multi-Billionaire Michael Bloomberg gives $300K to GO Public Schools for Oakland School Board Races

bloomberg-moneyLate last night, GO Public Schools’ PAC filed a campaign finance report showing a $300,000 contribution from the former Republican Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. This contribution takes GO’s fundraising to defeat our pro-public school candidates to over HALF A MILLION DOLLARS.  Bloomberg – whose net worth is $43.5 billion – pushed school privatization in New York City as mayor and had a troubling track-record on class size increases and equity for children of color in New York City’s public schools.

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Oakland deserves better than Republican multi-billionaires, the Charter School Association and other outside interests manipulating our school board elections. Sign up today to knock on doors or make phone calls for our pro-public school candidates. If you can’t volunteer, make a contribution.

More on Bloomberg from The Nation:

On class sizes:

“The mayor has sought to manage the city’s 1,500 or so schools and 1.1 million students as if he were running a business. Data, derived mainly from standardized tests, are his primary management tools. While focused on test scores, Bloomberg has allowed class sizes to increase, despite the fact that class-size reduction is one of only a handful of reforms proven to narrow the achievement gap (and is the top priority of parents, according to the Education Department’s own surveys).

“In a December 2011 speech, Bloomberg said that he would double class size if he could by firing half of the teachers, and that it would be “a good deal for the students.”

On Equity for Gifted and Talented Students:

“For the first time, Bloomberg also imposed a test-based policy for admissions into gifted and talented programs, which caused the percentage of minority children in these programs to plummet. Before 2006, community school districts devised their own policies and relied on more holistic measures. In 2006, 53 percent of students in these programs were black or Hispanic; now less than one-third are. Last year, in some large areas of the Bronx, too few children tested “gifted” for a single gifted class to be offered, while in wealthier parts of the city—where parents send their 4-year-olds to expensive test-prep programs—more than half of the children are deemed gifted.”

On Charter School Expansion:

 “The expansion of charter schools has been another source of widening inequity. Bloomberg has been an aggressive proponent of charter schools, which receive public funds but are run by private corporate boards. The mayor, together with a set of wealthy philanthropists, successfully lobbied to have the cap raised on charter schools in 2007 and again in 2010. Recently, it was revealed that he plans to start his own chain of such schools when he leaves office, and has assigned city employees to the task of designing them.”

 Read more here: https://www.thenation.com/article/education-michael-bloomberg/

Measure G1 – Yet Another Giveaway to the Deep-Pocketed Charter School Industry

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Many of the people looked like Oaklanders, but the brand new, fresh-out-the-box baby blue t-shirts that they all wore betrayed the fact that they were trying to advance an agenda that did not originate in Oakland. At two of the first three school board meetings this year, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) paid for pizza and drinks to mobilize families to come out and lobby district leadership to give money to privately run charter schools that Oakland voters had specifically earmarked for publicly run schools. It was reminiscent of many previous board meetings where shiny, private busses would show up full of charter school staff and families on a mission to make sure that their privately run, exclusionary, and unaccountable schools could get reapproved for more public funding.

As if suing OUSD last year to get their hands on more public land and lobbying the school board this year for access to funds that were meant specifically for publicly run schools wasn’t enough, the CCSA and other deep-pocketed charter advocates like GO Public Schools are also promoting a ballot measure this Fall that asks Oakland voters to force Oakland property owners to put even more public money into their private pockets.

Measure G1 proposes a third parcel tax for schools on Oakland property owners since 2008. Measure G, which passed in 2008, specifically did not allow charter schools access to its revenue. Measure G funds are the revenue that the CCSA is trying to tap into with their pizza and t-shirt giveaways. Measure N, passed in 2014, allows charter schools access to its revenue.

Among other things, 2008’s Measure G was supposed to permanently pay for teacher recruitment and retention and music and arts programs. This year, Measure G1 also promises to pay for teacher recruitment and retention and music and arts programs. The main difference between the two measures is that charter schools would legally have access to G1 funds.

Oakland homeowners should not be asked to pay more just so that the charter school industry can pocket more.g1-donors1

Measure G1 supporters focus on the emotional argument that teachers are underpaid, and teachers absolutely are. However, while district leaders are quick to claim credit for negotiating a salary raise for teachers two years ago, they just unilaterally announced that they are gutting that raise due to lower than expected enrollment. Enrollment is low in OUSD because district leaders — whose campaigns are funded by GO Public Schools and the California Charter School Association — are proliferating and growing charter schools that siphon students and their funding away from OUSD-run schools.

The district is actually asking homeowners to pay $120 a year for the next 12 years so they can pay the teachers whom they are taking a raise away from while they simultaneously take credit for negotiating that raise. Seriously.

Additionally, according to a recent report commissioned by the district itself, OUSD spends too much on central administrators. When Superintendent Antwan Wilson is earning almost $300,000 a year and his cadre of compliant administrators earn six figure salaries as well, should homeowners be asked to pony up more money to pay the teachers who work under these high-paid administrators?

G1 supporters claim that charter school families will pay for this parcel tax, but that is dishonest. You don’t have to live in Oakland to send your child to an Oakland charter school. You don’t have to own a home either.

Charter schools have their own revenue streams in addition to our tax dollars, and are allowed to advertise relentlessly. Given that these privately run schools are in direct competition with public schools and the playing field is skewed in favor of charters, it is inappropriate that the district would ask homeowners to pay a third parcel tax for things that we are already permanently paying a parcel tax for, just so that charter schools can get more funding.

While parcel taxes are a common way for public school districts to increase revenue, they are unfair because low-income homeowners pay the exact same as wealthy owners of large commercial properties. So not only would the few teachers who can afford to own homes in Oakland be taxed extra for their own salary increases, they will be taxed the same amount that Uber pays for its prestigious Uptown Station property. There are other ways to tap into the vast resources available in this city, this region, and this state.

Like many Oaklanders, I voted for Measure N and Measure G because I saw no other options for our public schools. I won’t vote for G1, though. Rather than continuing to follow the lead of deep-pocketed charter school advocates, the district should focus more on actually improving OUSD public schools, which have many problems of their own that need to be addressed.

Please vote no on Measure G1.

Pro-Public School Candidate Endorsements

Permanent absentee ballots were delivered in Alameda County this week. Share our pro-public school endorsements for the OUSD Board of Education with your Oakland friends and family today!

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District 1 Read our endorsement for Don Macleay

District 3 Read our endorsement of Kharyshi Wiginton

District 5 Read our endorsement of Mike Hutchinson and Roseann Torres

District 7 Read our endorsement of Chris Jackson

You can also download and print our slate card here: parents-united-for-public-schools-slate

Below are the short answers for our candidate questionnaire. Full answers can be found here.

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(Click Image above to enlarge)

Parents United Endorses Mike Hutchinson & Rosie Torres in District 5

In Oakland, we have a democratically elected public school board which is responsible to voters, to parents, to teachers and community. Great Oakland Public Schools (“GO”) threatens to distort that democratic process by “just doing whatever it takes” to win seats on the School Board. It has already raised almost $150,000 to do just that, with still five weeks to go until the election. Almost $50,000 each from San Francisco billionaire venture capitalist Arthur Rock and local millionaire T. Gary Rogers, whose family foundation is interested in expanding charter schools in Oakland, adding 10,000 new seats by 2020. Money and support pour in from the California Charter School Association and local charter school supporters. Money given to ensure that our school board continues to be charter friendly, continues to open new schools and rubber stamp renewals of existing ones, continues to offer up our students and facilities to privately managed, distinctly non-democratic, charter schools.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-1-53-01-pmIn District 5, candidate Mike Hutchinson is committed to public education in Oakland. Mike is a lifelong public school advocate, the son of two educators who has seen, in his 25 years working with youth, the dismantling of our public schools through school closures and charter school proliferation. Mike has witnessed first hand the impact of the state takeover of our district and how our board has failed to reassert its role as the protectors of our public schools. Mike is a passionate advocate for strong community schools, for re-prioritizing the budget to support those schools and for strong oversight of our existing charter schools. Mike is running an independent campaign with support from community, not corporate reformers. Mike would serve District 5 with integrity and the tireless commitment he has shown for the past five years and more, and Parents United for Public Schools is proud to support Mike Hutchinson for School Board in District 5.

rosieDistrict 5 is unusual in that it is the only of the four districts up this year in which GO did not endorse the incumbent. Director Roseann Torres was elected in 2012 as the official GO-backed candidate, but has deviated from GO’s agenda and so now they are running someone against their former choice. Director Torres voted against several charter schools including GO favorite EBIA, publicly criticised the Common Enrollment proposal and has called for more oversight of the charter industry. She authored the Ethnic Studies legislation and opposed a possible charter takeover of Fremont High. While we would like to see Director Torres take a more consistent line on charters, we respect that she has taken a stand against corporate funders and GO Public Schools, and we are therefore also supporting Roseann Torres in District 5.

Under ranked choice voting in Oakland elections, it is critical that you vote for Mike Hutchinson AND Roseann Torres, and NOT for the GO endorsed candidate Huber Trenado or charter industry money man Michael Hassid. We have a unique opportunity here in Oakland to take a stand AGAINST corporate money and FOR democratically elected candidates supported by parents, teachers, students and community members, independent leaders who will help us strengthen our public schools.

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Ways to help Mike and Rosie: Go to their websites and Facebook pages, like and share, donate to the campaign, volunteer to knock on doors or phone bank.

You can find full answers to Mike’s and Rosie’s candidate questionnaires here.