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 OUSDdata.org 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

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


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