Two parcel tax elections in one year for Oakland schools? (Yep.)

Monday night update: State Administrator Vince Matthews put the parcel tax on the November ballot, despite the school board’s advisory measure to delay the initiative until it was vetted by the board and the public, possibly in 2009. Read the story here.


As usual, the news didn’t stop while I was away. I checked my mail this morning, still a bit foggy from vacation, to discover that the state administrator might put a parcel tax election on the Nov. 4 ballot! And that the special meeting to discuss the issue is scheduled for 4 p.m. this afternoon!

The proposed levy is titled the “Outstanding Teachers for all Oakland Students Tax.” It would cost property owners $120 each year (per parcel) for 10 years. According to the version posted on the meeting agenda, 85 percent would go to teacher compensation, and 15 percent to charter schools.

It seems as though the additional funding would ease ongoing contract negotiations by giving the district the means (and the directive) to give its teachers more competitive pay. But the Oakland teacher’s union appears poised to oppose the tax initiative. Betty Olson-Jones, the union president, left me a voice mail message saying “I am 99 percent sure that we’re going to take an opposing position.” One problem from the union’s point of view, she said, is the funds designated for Oakland’s 30-plus independently run, public charter schools. The union usually takes stances against charters, many of which are not unionized.

Some of the other reasons behind the opposing stance was outlined in a news release issued last week by the Alameda County Central Labor Council. For instance, the measure would only benefit teachers, not other district employees.

If you recall, charter school advocates complained last fall that their students didn’t stand to benefit from Measure G, the permanent parcel tax that passed with 79 percent voter approval in February. At the time, some board members said the district would consider including charters in future levy initiatives.

Should Vincent Matthews (who, as state administrator, still has control over the district’s finances) authorize the new tax measure? If he does, should the labor unions back it?

image from nafdigitalassets’ site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://none Nancy

    My child is turning 3 years old this week. To tell the truth, I didn’t realize what it really takes to live in California on a teacher’s salary when I came to Oakland 15 years ago to teach nor did I before having my baby. I also was naive to these projections when I mortgaged my future for student loans which I was lead to believe would qualify for cancellation due to my precollege enrollment goals of serving disadvantaged and teacher-shortage areas. Not one cent has qualified for cancellation. I just recently found a report online called What It Really Takes To Live In California http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2007/10/making_ends_mee.html

    Basically, my grievance is that 1/3 of my take home salary goes to pay for a basic preschool (without a specialized philosophy or amenities like many private preschools–I pay for after-care amenities) and this will continue for the next 2 years since we do not qualify for free preschool at an OUSD CDC or other despite the fact that some of these centers are crumbling and delapitated appearing like Hintil.

    Then, one third of my take home salary goes to rent, since I do not, and will not ever have access to non-working wealth, aka inheritance, gifting, or awards like lottery, etc, etc., a longshot for anyone. The last third of my take home salary goes for food, gas, and a minimum of going out to eat that doesn’t exceed 12-15 dollar range. My salary doesnt pay for short/long term savings, retirement, a car loan, a home loan even if I could qualify which is beyond any reality anyway, etc, etc, etc. Basically, I question why I ever went to college or tried to move up the socio-economic ladder I now believe I was indoctrinated to believe existed, exists. On the front line, I feel the benefits of working as a teacher and positively influencing children. I feel that I serve fully and unconditionally with love and from the genuine care and concern for the next generation. In fact, I have an obligation as a mother to model for my son morals and standards I believe are proper to sustain.

    I am disturbed that this parcel tax initiative would benefit charter schools and independently run schools. What makes their teachers more deserving than me? I have done everything I was taught to do and pulled my own self up by the boot-straps to ascertain and maintain myself and my child.

    If they can’t give cash benefits like raises in salaries due to budget crisis or any other reason, why don’t they give teachers like myself a Section 8 like credit for renter teachers and a childcare/preschool voucher just like they give welfare mothers. If my salary can’t increase, then why don’t I get some other vouchers from local business or corporations to maximize the value of my salary so I am not equivalent to a welfare mother.

    A retired teacher I know was very disturbed by my comments about me questioning why I ever decided to improve myself by going to college and reaching beyond my working class welfare mother relatives. I have watched craigslist for 2 years and know the reality of being a renter. If I could have the School District bargaining team match what I am currently paying for rent then I would increase the value of my salary.

    If there was a real interest in settling contract negotiations all over Oakland, City Employees as well, then maybe the implications of this parcel tax proposal could be assessed by someone from the Oakland Black Caucus, could have Editor Sanjeev of “The Oakland Digest” give us a report similar to the report on what’s stalling contract negotiations with the City like in the June 2008 issue.

  • Nextset

    What makes the Educrats think for a minute that working families will vote any more tax money for operation of failing schools? Money isn’t the problem, school policy is the problem. Giving them more $ to use on the same old failing programs and policies will just make things worse. Even bonds for new school construction are no sure thing.

    Besides, that’s money people homeowners need to send their kids to church or other private schools. The only taxes the OUSD families directly pay is the sales tax. What percentage of OUSD students are from homeowning families?

    Property owners are not likely to be inclined to Vote OUSD more funds – and property owners vote at a higher rate than non-property owners – especially on proposed property tax increases. Doesn’t Prop 13 require a supermajority for any tax increases?

    I haven’t heard of successful CA local votes to increase property taxes to raise money for school operating revenue. I don’t see this as likely to pass.

  • AC Mom

    Unfortunately, this is yet another in a line of initiatives that have been proposed in the past few years that have been labeled “for the children…” whether they benefit OUSD or not. I think that people are becoming less supportive of such pleas for assistance because they are so common, and past results have been mixed at best.

    In the past 4 years that I have lived in Oakland, here is a list of ballot initiatives that have been proposed.

    Measure Y- passed. Although not specifically about schools, the initiative was widely promoted as being targeted towards at risk youth, after school programs, etc.

    Measure B- passed. School facilities bond

    Measure N- did not pass. Library improvements and new construction

    Measure A/B-did not pass. Children’s Hospital expansion and improvements

    Measure G- passed. OUSD parcel tax; continuation of previous tax levy

    Now we have two additional tax levies proposed by OUSD, plus a possible expansion of Measure Y, and an expansion of Measure K/Kid’s First. I have not seen the any ballot text related to Measure Y or K, so I cannot say whether or not they will require an additional tax. However, I often wonder if these proposals if passed will have a quantifiable positive impact, or if they amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I value public education and it is sad to see it’s systematic dismantling through a starvation diet. Reagan started it (at least from my recollection) and now there is decreasing federal and state funds. Local voters are carrying more and more of the burden and Oakland is symbolic of this. Whatever the result of this measure, we have to find a way to support quality educators and the supporting staff and resources to help them be successful.

    I’m dismayed along with Kakishiba. It’s just depressing.

  • hills parent

    I will vote for no new school bonds, parcel taxes, etc. until I see a district office that is overhauled and more responsive to the needs of the schools and parents. Enough is enough.

  • Ashley Christian

    The parcel tax is supposed to benefit “outstanding teachers” in Oakland. How will teachers’ “outstandingness” be measured? School test scores? Qualifications based on NCLB guidelines? If so, as an OUSD teacher I would not vote for this. If our merit is based on school test scores, then everyone who works at schools where parents are highly educated and can afford to feed and cloth their children will get nice little bonuses. Schools like mine where many of my students come to school hungry, dirty or tired (after having slept on the street) will continue to pay their teachers less than they worth. We will continue to see high turnover and all new teachers.

    Charter schools do not need any more money either.

    If the money is intended for teachers, it should be explained how the money will get to them.

  • Sue

    Ashley, when you receive your county voter’s guide, you’ll find the following:

    “… shall be authorized to be used (i) to attract and retain highly qualified and credentialed teachers in District-run schools by offering compensation that is competitive with other Bay Area School districts…”

    I read that legal-ese as meaning across-the-board pay-raises for all the teachers. The rest of the text of the measure, and the County Counsel’s analysis agree.