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/

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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.

Parents United Endorses Donald Macleay in District 1

Prior to 2012, Oakland school board elections had historically been narrowly watched, with limited expenditure of limited funds, mostly raised from local donors. In 2012 that all changed when GO Public Schools, through its Political Action Committee (PAC), raised $184,000 from organizations and individuals, many from outside of Oakland. GO used those funds to elect School Board candidates who went on to support the market reform agenda of their big money donors: the expansion and proliferation of charter schools, at the expense of our traditional public schools.

District 1 has twice elected Jody London to be its representative on the School Board. In 2008, Director London ran against Brian Rogers — a founder of GO Public Schools — and won. In the next election, in 2012, Jody won again, without the endorsement of GO, who did not endorse in that race. In 2013, Director London publicly declared that she would not vote for any more charter schools in Oakland, a position that was contrary to positions taken by GO and its major donors, the Rogers family and the California Charter School Association. But times have changed, Director London has voted to approve charter schools, including, most recently, a school that GO founder Brian Rogers sits on the board of. This year, Jody London has been endorsed by GO Public Schools as their candidate of choice in District 1.
donWe believe it is time for a change in District 1. Jody used to be an independent voice on the board, but she no longer is. Parents United for Public Schools believes that Donald Macleay will be an independent voice for parents who believe that we need to focus on creating and supporting strong public schools, not privately-managed charter schools. Accordingly, Parents United joins the Oakland Education Association, the Oakland Justice Coalition, and numerous others in endorsing Don Macleay for School Board in District 1.

The contrast between Don’s answers to our candidate questionnaire, and Jody’s answers, is troubling:

  • Don believes that we need to end the school-to-prison pipeline by providing restorative justice counselors and a decreased police presence on every campus. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don understands that we need enrollment reform, not common enrollment. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don does not support an “Equity Pledge” that hasn’t come from community needs or demands and which doesn’t hold charter schools accountable. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don believes that the OUSD office tasked with ensuring oversight of our charter schools should be fully staffed with independent staff members who have the training and experience to hold charter schools accountable. Jody isn’t sure.
  • Don has committed to refusing campaign contributions from organizations or individuals which have an agenda of charter proliferation. Jody isn’t sure.

district-1-side-by-sideIn this time of unprecedented spending by wealthy individuals and organizations from outside of Oakland, we need someone who is sure they will not be politically influenced, and who will focus on keeping public schools public, transparent and accountable. Don’s campaign motto is “Accountability Matters.” We believe that Don Macleay will be accountable to parents, students, teachers and community leaders. We believe that Don will hold charter schools accountable for serving all students. We believe that Don Macleay is the best candidate in District 1.

Without GO behind him, Don will need our help in reaching out to voters in District 1. Come meet Don on Wednesday, September 28th at 6:30 p.m. at an open education forum at 4920 Telegraph Avenue. Go to Don’s website to volunteer or to make a donation: http://www.don4ousd.org/  Let’s continue to work to take back our school district and keep our public schools public, and elect Don Macleay to the School Board in District 1.

You can read Don’s complete answers to our candidate questionnaire by clicking here.

Parents United Endorses Kharyshi Wiginton in District 3

kharyshiIn this Presidential election year, there has been a great focus on getting big money out of politics in recognition of the negative impact it has on our democracy. Here in Oakland, over the last handful of years, an unprecedented amount of money has poured into our local school board elections from largely out of town big money donors. The majority of the current members of the OUSD Board of Education were elected with contributions from corporate interests, and those board members have consistently voted in ways that reflect those interests. Parents United for Public Schools believes that our public schools need strong leaders on the school board who are free from the influence of Wall Street billionaires and corporations who have an agenda to privatize our public school system.

In District 3, we believe that Kharyshi Wiginton will be just that type of strong independent leader who will fight for the public schools that all our students deserve. Kharyshi – affectionately called “Ms. K” by the students and families at McClymonds High School in West Oakland where she works – has pledged to refuse campaign contributions from GO Public Schools, the California Charter School Association, and other corporate interests focused on replacing our public school system with a private top-down business model of education.

When you meet Kharyshi, you can’t help but be drawn-in by her enthusiasm and passion for her students and her West Oakland community. Ms. K runs the after school program at McClymonds, where she is involved in multiple aspects of the school, including as a member of the Intensive Support re-design team. Through her involvement, Kharyshi has seen first-hand how OUSD fails to authentically engage the community about the direction of our District, instead making decisions behind closed doors or in secret committees, and then attempting to sell major changes to the community as community engagement after the fact.

Kharyshi believes in a model of pro-active community engagement that really listens to students, parents and the community – especially those on the margins, including families of color, working class families, and special education families. Kharyshi has pledged that when she is elected, these stakeholders will have a permanent seat at the table, leading to true community-led reform. With a strong community service orientation, she views a position on the School Board as “The People’s Seat,” and vows to “grow leadership” from within  her district if elected.

Kharyshi believes in the community school model, saying, “a true community school model will see the student as an entire being and work to develop her/him holistically as opposed to just focusing on academic achievement. This includes providing programs and supports for the family as well.” Kharyshi and Parents United believe that expanding that model is a critical step in strengthening all Oakland public schools.

Kharyshi is also committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, getting police out of our schools and training more school-site staff in restorative justice practices, including School Security Officers.

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For all these reasons, and more, Parents United believes that Kharyshi Wiginton is the right leader to represent Oakland public schools in District 3, and we are proud to endorse her for School Board.

Because Ms. K doesn’t have the kinds of corporate-backed support that the incumbent does, it is important that she gets the grassroots community support that can win this election. Volunteers are knocking on doors in District 3 every Saturday from 10-12, meeting at Ms K’s campaign headquarters at 1523 Myrtle St. You can email khayastar@gmail.com for more information on door knocking, phone banking, and event support.

You can read Kharyshi’s complete answers to our candidate questionnaire here.


WONDERING HOW TO VOTE IN RANKED-CHOICE VOTING?

Because the Oakland Board of Education race is decided using ranked-choice voting, and there are multiple candidates on the ballot in District 3, Parents United encourages you to make your other choices for candidates that are supported by and funded by the community, and not Wall Street billionaires and other corporate interests focused on the privatization of our public schools.

Therefore, we recommend that you DO NOT USE ANY OF YOUR VOTES for incumbent Board member Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, who has consistently been endorsed and funded by GO Public Schools and the California Charter School Association, and has voted in line with those interests.

Director Hinton-Hodge acknowledged receipt of our questionnaire but did not respond, despite being given extra time to do so.

Parents United sent out its questionnaire to all three active candidates in District 3. You can see the answers to our candidate questionnaire from Ben Lang, another District 3 candidate who has also committed to reject corporate funding and expand community schools, on our website.

 

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