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!

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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

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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.

It’s time for our School Board to reassert its authority over the budget

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Over the last month news reports have come out that show that our District may be facing up to a $30 million budget shortfall in the coming year, surprising both the public and, reportedly, our elected Board members. Without first seeking the approval of the elected school board, or engaging school communities, the Superintendent and his staff spent the last week telling OUSD Principals about unilateral plans to save money by consolidating schools in East and West Oakland, as well as decreasing the number of schools eligible for an Assistant Principal. These plans are a clear departure from existing Board policy, and the Superintendent plans to  present them to the Board for its “after the fact” approval this Wednesday, January 11th at 5 pm at City Hall. Please call the Board members today to demand the reassert their control over this process.

When Superintendent Wilson arrived, OUSD had 4 employees earning over $200k, now we have 26. When he arrived, we had 30 employees earning over $150k, now we have 140. Nonetheless, when faced with a budget deficit, the Superintendent’s solution is to close, consolidate and make cuts to school sites rather than cutting central administrative bloat. As parents, students, educators and community members, we must demand that our elected school board take control of this situation, reassert its authority as the decision-making body of the district, and seek budget solutions that will not harm our school sites.

The Board will hear an initial proposal from the Superintendent and his staff this Wednesday. Please call and leave a message for your School Board member TODAY to let them know that you will not stand for cuts to schools, and that you expect them to reassert their authority over these types of decisions. You can find a sample phone rap and phone numbers for the Board members here. You can also attend the board meeting on Wednesday, January 11th at 5pm in City Hall.

Privacy and Equity Concerns about GreatSchools being given access to information about our kids

great-schoolsLast week, OUSD parents and caregivers got an email fromGreatSchools.org targeting K-8 students. It would seem that Oakland Unified School District has given (or sold) to this private organization a list of parent email addresses and (at a minimum) the grade level of our children, and that it did so without approval from our elected School Board. This is concerning because Great Schools – a data-mining company posing as a resource to help parents find good schools – has partnered with Zillow.com to guide home buyers to choose communities according to color-coded school ratings posted online. In other words: Great Schools practices modern-day educational redlining . On their advertising page they promise that if you purchase ad space on their site, you will “get your message in front of our large audience of active, educated and affluent parents.” Great Schools was launched by charter interests and is funded by Wall Street education privatizers, like the Walton Family (of Walmart fame), Goldman Sachs and Bill Gates. Parents United’s research has found NO evidence that our elected school board has voted on this troubling violation of our privacy and stated Equity values, and we have been provided with NO explanation about how our information can be used. We have asked our elected school board for more information on this troubling development, and will keep parents updated on what we hear. #TakeBackOUSD

Parents United Endorses Chris Jackson for Board of Education in District 7

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Parents United for Public Schools believes that this election of 2016, where four of the seven school board seats are on the ballot, presents a unique opportunity to elect strong, independent leaders who will work with parents, students, teachers and community to strengthen and transform our public schools.

We need community-driven change, strong accountability and a board that understands its role is to create policy and direct its Superintendent to carry it out. We need a board whose budget priority is classrooms and not consultants and central administrators. We need leaders who are willing to invest in proven, community-based reforms that will rebuild strong public schools in every neighborhood and serve every child.

Parents United believes that Chris Jackson is that leader in District 7. Chris is an OUSD parent with a long history of educational activism and leadership who will be a strong voice for parents, students, teachers and community.

Chris Jackson is an Oakland native who has lived in the Bay Area all of his life. As a student at San Francisco State University, Chris fought to give working class and students of color access to affordable college. After graduation, Chris continued his advocacy for youth and education, serving on the San Francisco Youth Commission and was twice elected to the Board for City College of San Francisco where he served as Vice President and the chair of the Budget Committee. In coalition with teachers, students and community, Chris and the Board successfully pushed back against attempts to privatize the college accreditation process.

Chris returned to Oakland to care for his mother, continue his social work to help the formerly incarcerated find homes, training and employment, and raise his children with his wife. When his daughter’s OUSD-run preschool, without parental notice or input, changed the drop-off from 8 to 9:30 (a hardship for many working parents), Chris became concerned that parent voices were not respected in OUSD and, like he has all his life, he decided to become part of the solution by running for School Board.

Chris understands that budgeting is a matter of setting priorities, and he wants to prioritize programs that will benefit our most at-risk students, including smaller class sizes. Chris knows that smaller class sizes matter, yet OUSD spends $35 million LESS (on an adjusted basis) on instruction than comparative Districts, but $13.7 million MORE than average on central administration. Chris is committed to putting those resources back in our classrooms.

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Chris also sees the destabilizing role the District’s current school reform model is playing in many of our public schools. The school improvement process has failed to engage parents in ways that make it truly community-led, and the School Board’s decision to continue to grow the number of charter schools has reduced enrollment and funding in many of our public schools. Chris has pledged to work to make sure school improvement efforts are led by school communities and has also pledged to support the moratorium on new charter schools called for by the Movement for Black Lives, the National NAACP and Journey for Justice.

Chris will work to make the budget process more transparent and the district more inclusive of parents, students, teachers and community. Chris understands that change needs to come from the community, not from highly paid consultants or administrators. Like Parents United, Chris is concerned about the influx of corporate money into our school board races through groups like GO Public Schools and the California Charter Association, and has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from corporate-backed charter interests.

For all of these reasons, Parents United for Public Schools believes that Chris Jackson is the candidate in District 7 who will best serve all of our public school students and we are proud to endorse him for the Oakland School Board.

Because Chris doesn’t have the kinds of corporate-backed support that his opponent does, we will win the election the old-fashioned way, by getting out into the streets and talking to voters. To do that effectively, we need your help.

Join Chris and Parents United on September 24th from 10 am to 2 pm for coffee and donuts followed by knocking on District 7 doors to let voters know why we believe Chris is the best choice for School Board. Sign up for the event on facebook or let us know that you can come by emailing us.

Check out Chris’ website for more information about his campaign and ways to help through donations, community door knocking (Saturdays and Sundays) and phone banking (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings):http://www.chrisjacksonforoakland.org/

You can read Chris’ complete answers to our candidate questionnaire here:https://ousdparentsunited.wordpress.com/elections/

Candidate Questionnaire Responses

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The Candidate Questionnaire was sent to each of the candidates* in all four districts who were given two weeks to complete the Questionnaire and return it to Parents United. Those candidates who did not return the Questionnaire by the deadline were given an additional 3 days to complete it, should they choose to do so. The responses will be posted here as we issue candidate endorsements, and will be given below in their entirety.

District 7

Chris Jackson

James Harris: Did not respond, despite being offered (and thanking us for) several additional days to complete the survey.

 

*We were unable to reach one candidate in District 3, Lucky Narain, despite multiple attempts.