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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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.

Sample Letter to Alameda County Board of Ed Re: Aurum Preparatory Academy

Aurum Preparatory Academy’s charter was rejected nearly unanimously by our School Board in December for being unlikely to succeed and failing to present a sound educational or financial plan, among other reasons. On Tuesday, April 11th, the petition will be in front of the Alameda County Board of Education for their consideration. California’s charter school law unfairly and undemocratically overrules the local control of school boards to manage the educational programs of their districts by allowing charter schools to appeal rejections, first to the County and then the State, who can then authorize the placement of the school in Oakland. It is imperative that the County Board of Education hear from Oakland families opposing the opening of this charter school in our community. There are many reasons why Aurum should not be operating in Oakland, but the County Board is limited in what arguments it can consider. We have prepared a draft letter here which you can modify to reflect your concerns and send it to the Alameda County Board members listed below. Please take a minute to send the email by Monday at noon to ensure that the board has adequate time to consider it.

SAMPLE EMAIL:

Dear Alameda County Board of Education Members:

I am writing to ask you to reject Aurum Preparatory Academy’s charter petition appeal, and affirm the OUSD Board of Education’s rejection of the proposed charter school. I am [WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF, IE: A TEACHER AT AN OAKLAND SCHOOL NEAR THE PROPOSED AURUM SITE, A PARENT WITH 3 CHILDREN IN OUSD SCHOOLS, ETC.], and I urge you to vote to confirm the OUSD’s decision to reject the Aurum petition for the following reasons:

  • The appeal represents a “material revision” from the petition presented to OUSD, and rejected in December 2016. The change of the school’s opening date from 2017 to 2018 invalidates the signatures of parents “meaningfully interested” in enrolling their child for the fall 2017 opening and requires Aurum to go back to the OUSD school board for approval or rejection before the county board is permitted to accept the appeal.
  • The OUSD Board made the right decision when it rejected the Aurum petition, as the Aurum school leadership lacks the experience necessary to successfully implement the school plan; the Aurum petition fails to establish a sound education plan; and the petition lacks all the required elements, including concerns about financial stability and cash flow to sustain the program.

The East Oakland public school community has recently experienced the direct destabilization associated with the failure of the Castlemont Primary Academy charter school at the very site where Aurum proposes to locate. East Oakland kids need stability, not further instability. For all of these reasons, I urge you to reject the appeal of Aurum.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

[SCHOOL]

[ADDRESS]

Send to: jrivera@acoe.org, achildress@acoe.org, kberrick@acoe.org, aknowles@acoe.org, fsims@acoe.org, emcdonald@acoe.org, ycerrato@acoe.org

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.

OUSD Board Resolution Affirms Oakland Schools Are Safe Spaces for All Students

For Immediate Release
December 15, 2016

OUSD Board Passes Post-Election Resolution to Support ALL Students, Families, & Staff

Community-Based Coalition Demanded Resolution to Assure Immigrant and Muslim Students: OUSD Schools Are Safe Spaces

Oakland, CA: Wednesday evening the OUSD Board of Education passed a resolution (#1617-0089) submitted by Directors Shanthi Gonzales and Roseann Torres to support all OUSD students in the wake of the election, re-affirming their support for immigrants (regardless of their status) and Muslim students, as well as students of all races, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations in our District.

img_20161215_101920The resolution was supported by a broad multi-racial and community-based coalition of student, parent, racial justice, education, faith and labor organizations after Oakland students raised their voices in the days following the election, declaring that Mr. Trump’s policies are not welcome in Oakland.

Trump himself, as well as those who he appoints, will not be in support of public education and youth, especially youth of color,” said Zhihao Guo, a 10th grader at Oakland Technical High School. “As an Asian American and student of color, I deserve the right to a good public education that helps me become aware of what is going on in my community. We must make the Oakland Unified School District a sanctuary district to provide the rightful education that we all deserve.”

The resolution reaffirms that school district’s commitment to keeping Oakland schools as safe spaces, especially important after the presidential election when many families, students and staff were left feeling vulnerable and afraid.

“We need this resolution because families feel equality will not be in their favor once president-elect Donald Trump takes office. Homes will be broken by family separation. Stress has come over children who should be doing school work but are too afraid to leave parents. Children are not getting sleep and not eating worried of being alone here,” said Sandra Wilson, a parent at Elmhurst College Prep.

“Ever since the election, so many people have been on edge! I have heard insults thrown across the room, such as immigrants not belonging here or people of color being responsible for destroying our communities. Because of this atmosphere, I and many other black students have experienced micro aggressions and we all understand that those micro aggressions can turn into full force aggressions. We feel unsafe in our own communities. Young people of color should not feel this way,” said Nailiah Williams a 12th Grader at Gateway to College at Laney.

“The morning after the election, students came to class scared and angry. One student asked while crying, ‘How could Trump win, he is racist and mean. He wants to send my parents back.’ I’m glad my union and all the community organizations came together to defend my community and students,” said Ismael Armendariz, a special education teacher at Edna Brewer Middle School.

“Some of my friends and community were terrified when President-elect Trump won, worried about what’s going to happen. The resolution makes me feel we can have a better future and I’m optimistic that things will change. I feel proud and strong to be a Muslim and an American citizen,” said Zaineb Alomari, a parent at Community United Elementary School.

The resolution was supported by the following organizations:

Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN)
BAY-Peace
Black Organizing Project
Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Office (CAIR-SFBA)
Californians for Justice
Centro Legal de la Raza
East Oakland DREAMers
Oakland Community Organizations
Oakland Education Association (OEA)
Parents United for Public Schools
Public Advocates
Urban Peace Movement
ACCE
67 Sueños
Jorge Lerma, Educational Activist

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