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.
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.