O’Connell’s charter school tax — of OUSD

Remember that failed parcel tax that State Superintendent Jack O’Connell put on the November ballot — the one for Oakland teachers that the teachers union opposed? About 15 percent of the tax revenue would have gone to charters, had it passed.

Since it didn’t, O’Connell has decided to tax the Oakland school district, instead. In a letter to his Oakland appointee, Vince Matthews, O’Connell directed the state administrator to give the city’s charter schools $60 per student — about $480,000.

“… I am concerned about the ongoing financial well-being of all the district’s schools, and in particular, the district’s charter schools,” O’Connell wrote. “…This is meant to be a one-time adjustment while a longer term plan is pursued.”

I guess he can do those things; Oakland is still under state control, almost six years after the takeover (and months after auditors cleared the way for the district to regain full local authority over its business). But this comes as the district is preparing to cut $28 million from its general purpose fund by the end of 2010.

Alice Spearman, the school board president, said she wasn’t certain that O’Connell had the legal authority to pull this off. “It would be different if he was telling every school district in California to apportion $60 per student out of our budgets for charter schools, but he’s just doing it to us,” she said.

O’Connell’s press secretary, Hilary McLean, said the decision wasn’t meant to be divisive. “It’s an equity issue that isn’t intended to pit one part of our system against another,” she said.

Will it, though?

Katy Murphy

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

  • TheTruthHurts

    That takes serious cohones. I wish I could say I’m stunned.

  • Former OUSD parent

    O’Connell isn’t that brave or that smart. Think of a totally pliant and brainless Ken Doll completely willing to do what his corporate masters (i.e. the Broad foundation) tell him to do and you have a good idea what Jack O is like.

    This $60 per capita gift won’t fly. People will protest and then it will be over.

    Then O’Connell will slide further down the totem pole in California politics, to like Santa Monica’s dog catcher, or Lieutenant Governor. Thank God for term limits!

  • Beyond Bakesales

    Thank you for reporting about issues related to Oakland’s public schools. I have three reactions to the news that O’Connell is requiring additional OUSD funds be diverted to charter schools : politics as usual, the social contract/agreement charter schools made with the public is now broken, and they are discovering the same challenge confronting all public schools in underfunded regions – not enough money to do the job! The strategic selling point of charters was that they could improve the performance of students using the same per student allocation as public schools if only they were given total control over how they spent the money. Freed of a wide range of restrictions that public schools must confront, they have been heralded as the educational knight in shining armor by some.

    Looks like there are some cracks in the armor, because, as I have said for over 13 years of having children attend Oakland Public Schools, you simply cannot expect the same results as high performing locations that invest the money, no matter what the setting, when you don’t do the same. Also, many of the schools with so-called “achievement gaps,” like Skyline HS, who must grapple with constant oversight, reorganization, redesign, etc to attempt to close this gap, have only one unique characteristic compared to schools, say in Piedmont, Walnut Creek, or Danville, who don’t: a statistically significant “disadvantaged subgroup” that lags the performance of non-disadvantaged subgroups. It’s no challenge for the suburban schools because they don’t have those groups in the first place! We, as a society, have got to stop fooling ourselves that we can produce equivalent results dealing with more complex societal issues, with less resource. Please go visit Cold Spring Harbor, NY to see the difference. There, they spend well over $18,000 per student, and as a sheltered, homogeneous district, also completely lack any of the socio-economic challenges. The education those children receive is eye-openly different. (The trip would be worth your while, because that is where Meg Whitman grew up and attended high school, so you could see where one of the candidates for Governor of California came from.)

    We are such a consumption driven society and yet we think that we can somehow buy the same quality of education over a K-12 experience spending $180,000 less per student. Makes zero sense.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Using his power as State Superintendent of Public Instruction over school districts in California under State receivership, Jack O’Connell is ordering a transfer of $480 thousand of OUSD general funding to be sent to Oakland Charter Schools.

    I mention general funds because unlike parcel tax money that is from Oakland property owners the money being sent to Oakland charter schools is money the State collected statewide for Oakland Public School children. Oakland charter schools receive statewide money too but they have not yet won parcel tax money at the ballot.

    This transfer of general funding is on “a one time basis because it is an equity issue”, Jack O’Connell spokes person says.

    O.K., then he will be doing the same in the other school districts under state control that passed parcel taxes without including charter schools?

    If Jack O’Connell does not act in the same manner in those other districts that have charter schools, won’t that in it self become an equity issue?

    Jack O’Connell has a right to support charter schools but many would argue he does not have a right to use the power of his office as overseer of OUSD in State receivership to promote that interest. His job as overseer is to restore financial stability to the District. Transferring money from OUSD to charter schools is not about equity but abuse of the power of his office.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Sharon

    Hey Oakland, you’re being duped!

    Billionaire Eli Broad is one of those eduphilathropreneurs who thinks schools should be operated like businesses. Not coincidentally, he also loves charter schools. In 2001, he started training really smart people to run school districts according to his grand plan. He needed a destination for his first graduating classes (The Broad Academy and Residency) so they could implement his ideas. The timing of OUSD’s financial troubles was perfect for him.

    What happened next is revealed in a Tribune article of 8/03 which stated, “Brown [Jerry] and Broad are longtime allies, and O’Connell is a major recipient of Broad campaign contributions.” Take a guess at who owed whom a favor?

    The rest is history. Since the state takeover, there has been a string of Broad graduates operating our district through a pet project called “Expect Success!” Instead of meaning to help steady OUSD, they wanted to create more disarray. Broad’s henchmen did his bidding by undermining our established traditional public schools, all the while greasing the way for more and more of charters they favored. Now OUSD has one of the highest levels of charter school enrollment in the country (at 16%), most popped up during this time.

    I don’t think charters need any more money. They are already supplemented by pro-charter philanthropic organizations and sympathizers, either directly (with donations), or indirectly (as in the case of providing website support, marketing, and who knows what else). Their principals and boards of directors have time to actively pursue these extras. Just poke around online.

    In 2007, the Walton Family Foundation donated $230,000 EACH to four charter schools in Oakland. Who knows how it was spent, but if it was spent on students at American Indian Public High School it meant an additional $2300/pupil, at Oakland Charter High it meant an additional $7667/pupil. A county approved charter located in Oakland (Envision) also received $230,000 for 113 kids, and a start-up called the Oakland Health Science Academy received $230,000, too. Undoubtedly there is more to discover, but I’m just one very annoyed person doing the best I can.

    And remember that pro-charter report recently released by the California Charter Schools Association? The Walmart folks alone gave that organization $1,200,000 in 2007, and probably other hefty sums each year. Think how public opinion about OUSD could be swayed if it had funding like that to pay for propaganda of its own!

    Oakland has been Eli Broad’s play thing for the past several years. His toy, our public school district, was handed to him by Jack O’Connell. For a person who supposedly cares about public education in Oakland and other urban areas, it’s funny that Broad’s never seen in town. He hasn’t tried to connect with us as human beings and never will. The man has unimaginable wealth and enjoys the extraordinary power which is attached. Broad is so rich that $1,340,000 to him is like $10 to someone who makes $50,000! How did this person get to be the decider for what our city needs?

    It’s a funny thing about the timing of O’Connell’s demand. As total control of OUSD is about to be turned over to our elected-by-the-people school board, can you think of anyone (especially someone who might be interested in a higher political office) who might still be thinking it would be wise to do favors for someone else?

    In conclusion,
    1. Charter schools don’t need anymore money
    2. OUSD needs to put a cap on them today
    3. We need to get the Broad stench out NOW!

  • ForChildren

    I’m not sure how a rational adult can seriously take the position of not providing charter schools with equal funding. Think about, guys. It is not the charter schools you are hurting it is the KIDS that are in those charter schools. These kids are public school children – just like your children. They go to a public school – charter schools are public schools. Why should your adult political interest hurt these kids. I just don’t get it.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Self-described for children:

    How can you be for children and support Jack O’Connell taking $60 dollars per children in charter schools from the children in Oakland public schools?

    Or, are you only for charter school children?

    Charter schools are not just public schools but public funded corporate schools managed by Board of Directors instead of school boards elected by the public.

    Public money paying for private management with poor public oversight defines all charter school management whether local or national.

    Jim Mordecai

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    California’s school funding is so byzantine that figuring out how much charter schools get compared to real public schools is beyond any of us. The mighty, bounteously funded charter school lobbying groups take advantage of that to constantly whine that their schools are underfunded.

    Here is one piece of accurate history, though.

    Until 2006, state law required school districts to provide charter schools with a specific amount of money, no matter how much the districts were able to provide their NON-charter schools. In my district, San Francisco Unified, at high school level that amount to charter high schools’ getting $800 MORE per student per year than non-charter high schools — subsidized by the students in the non-charter high schools, of course. The same discrepancy applied in suburban Novato Unified. Novato and San Francisco school officials went to then-State Sen. Carole Migden, who authored a bill, SB319, to remedy the inequity.

    The legislature passed the bill, and charter-friendly Gov. Schwarzenegger signed it, on the basis that the discrepancy was discouraging school districts from approving charters. It took effect in fall 2006.

    I have nowhere near the understanding to determine how much public funding charters now get in contrast to traditional public schools, and I’d bet that no one reading this does either. Many charter schools and charter management organizations get huge amounts of private philanthropy, which is undoubtedly a big juicy temptation motivating ambitious types to start up another charter school.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d add the info about that past charter subsidy. Back when the non-charter students in my district (and probably yours, though I don’t know that for sure) were sacrificing to provide extra subsidies for their peers in charter schools, the charter mouthpieces were still moaning shamelessly about how supposedly underfunded they were. They’ve proven how outrageously dishonest they’re willing to be, so anything they say along those lines now has no credibility whatsoever.

  • Teacher

    Charter schools pick and choose their students. The scores are high because they are the best of the district. Why are there questions about funding? Of course the state wants to continue on with the separation of poor and rich.

  • ForChildren

    I think we should all be working together to improve public education. This is not an us vs. them – it is about those kids that need us to act like adults and put the kid’s interests first. See my comments and ideas below:

    1. I don’t understand the argument that charter schools are bad because they are not run by the school district. It is incorrect to say that charter schools have some sort of corporate interest. Go visit a charter school before you make that claim and you will see that charter schools are run by parents and teachers in that school They are run by the people that are the closest to the children. Decisions about that school are made by the adults that are closest to the children. Doesn’t this just make sense. Obviously there are problems with our current system. Would you not admit? If there are not problems with district-run public schools why is OUSD in state takeover? Why are some Oakland schools failing children so miserably? Why not see if localizing decisions at a school site yields better results for kids? Maybe if you start to work together with the charter school movement (instead of trying to kill it) we could together get local decision making for all public schools. Would you not agree that it would make our schools better? Teachers and the union – would you not want to be more empowered to make decisions that help your students succeed? You can have it. It is possible. It is illogical to fight against charter schools. Let’s join together and help make public education better.

    2. It is not true that charter schools pick and choose their students. By law, charter schools are required to perform a lottery if they have too many students. By law, they cannot pick their students. Also, data from the California Department of Education shows that charter schools serve the same students that district-run schools serve based on race, socio-economic status, parental education, etc. Again – put your energy into improving education for all students and out of fighting against charter schools. It is a waste of time.

    3. Charter schools receive LESS money than district-run public schools. Of course, I am not just for charter school students. But, I am for ensuring that all kids in public schools have access to the same funds. That is just fair to those kids. Bottom line.

    Here are the simple facts:
    1. Charter schools get less money
    2. Charter schools are run by parents and teachers at the school site
    3. Charter schools get better results because the adults closest to the children are making the decisions (and if we work hard enough we can get this for all public schools)
    4. Instead of investing energy fighting charter schools – let’s work together to improve education for all children.

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    Some charter schools’ scores are high, Teacher. But overall, charter schools nationwide don’t outperform traditional public schools — even though the application process inherently creams for more-motivated families, and the general lack of oversight de facto does allow charter school to pick-n-choose their students if they so desire (IF they get enough applicants, which isn’t always the case).

    Overall, charter schools perform just like traditional public schools — some are excellent, some are dismal, most are somewhere in between.

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    We need to dispute these misstatements from “ForChildren,” too:

    FC says:
    “It is not true that charter schools pick and choose their students. By law, charter schools are required to perform a lottery if they have too many students. By law, they cannot pick their students.”

    Nobody oversees this, FC. Any charter school that wishes AND that gets enough applicants is free to pick and choose their students. Plus, of course, charter schools only get applicants whose parents were motivated to request a school, which self-selects for kids from families interested in their education.

    FC says: “…charter schools serve the same students that district-run schools serve based on race, socio-economic status, parental education, etc.”

    But in reality, charter schools famously UNDERserve two groups of the highest-need students — disabled students and limited-English speakers

    FC says: “…put your energy into improving education for all students and out of fighting against charter schools. It is a waste of time.”
    But FC, if school and children’s advocates see charter schools as a harmful force in education, how can you (in fact, how dare you) tell us not to fight them?

    FC says; “Charter schools receive LESS money than district-run public schools.”

    Funding for schools is so complex that it’s almost impossible to untangle. One San Francisco charter advocate repeatedly claimed that her charter school got less district funding than other district schools. Eventually a funding-savvy parent looked up the figures. It turned out that charter school gets SIGNIFICANTLY more funding per child than other district schools with COMPARABLE student populations (in this case heavily white and middle-class compared to the district overall). The dishonest advocates for that charter school were comparing its funding to high-poverty schools that get more funding because of their higher needs. Many charter schools get vast amounts of private “philanthropy” in a setup too opaque to track.

    FC says:
    “I am for ensuring that all kids in public schools have access to the same funds. That is just fair to those kids. Bottom line.”
    Then charter schools should renounce their unjust extra public and private funding.
    FC says:

    “1. Charter schools get less money”
    Not true. Ask Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Don Fisher, the Wal-Mart folks etc.

    “Charter schools are run by parents and teachers at the school site.”
    Rarely true. Charter schools are largely run by management organizations, which, by the way, are unelected and unaccountable.

    “Charter schools get better results because the adults closest to the children are making the decisions.”
    Not true. Charter schools overall do no better than traditional public schools despite the many advantages showered on them.

  • Michael Siegel

    Many of the above comments get at the dramatic inequity here. Just to reiterate, though: this is gross, unjust double-dipping by a desperate State Superintendent who is dismayed to see his grand social experiment crumbling before him.

    As Jim Mordecai states, this is general funding. Thus, this is funding that comes to the district because of its student attendance. District students earned the funding — but O’Connell wants to use the money for non-district students. Thus, the charter schools — which were endorsed and incorporated on the theory that they can make more with less — are instead siphoning off precious resources from the very students they are theoretically created to support.

    This is outrageous. Not only must Oakland resist this maneuver, but O’Connell needs to be thrown out of office. Has he exceeded his mandate? I hope that a coalition of parents, educators and activists, and maybe even a few lawyers, will band together to make sure this desperate power-grab fails.

  • Jim Mordecai

    You say that you don’t understand the argument that charter schools are bad because they are not run by a school district.
    Here are some points to consider:
    1. To start a charter school is to begin with taking out papers as a corporation.
    2. The organizers of the start-up charter petition decide the board of directors that run the charter school. There is no requirement that the corporate board be any more democratic than any other corporate board of directors. In Oakland most corporate boards are not elected by the public. In fact, KIPP has moved its Oakland charter school corporate board out of Oakland. KIPP Bay Area has consolidated its governance corporate board for the Bay Area.
    3. As a corporation charter schools take the public’s money and leave the public behind. In Oakland with over 30 charter schools there is little information on how the public’s money is spent. However, weak school boards and school districts in providing information on how the public’s money is spent, it is far superior to charter schools with regularly scheduled meetings and all spending of the public’s money being itemized on the agendas of regular meetings of the school board.
    4. In corporate business world there is always the possibility corporate raider in an unfriendly takeover wins the support of the majority of shareholders of a corporation and then kicks out the board. But, there is no required mechanism for charter school boards of director to be kicked out.
    5. Oversight of charters is the responsibility of school districts but in practice little is provided beyond test scores than are normally accepted as valid without testing being monitored by authorizing authority.
    6. School districts or the other authorizing agency, are provided with oversight money from, I believe, 1 to 3 percent of the charter school’s budget. There is a higher amount if the charter school is housed by a district. If might be that the funding a district receives in oversight money is inadequate to do the job. The money might be greater or lesser issue in oversight depending on how many charter schools are supervised and an economy of scale might pay into relationship between money and adequate oversight.
    7. Some charter schools under the present State of California charter school rules are run for profit. Running a school for profit is an alternative available for those in private schools but I believe the public should not fund schools run for profit. Schools for profit could not be run in the interest of children or the community by definition and therefore are a bad idea.
    8. Finally, charter schools are a bad idea because they convert public money from being spent on children. Charter schools provide growth in advertising budget of both charter schools and some public schools feeling the need to compete in advertising for students. Charter schools have grown a charter school interest group that lobby at the state and national level and divert public money to pay for that lobbying.
    Although there are many problems and unintended negative outcomes in the growth of charter schools, I am troubled most by the undermining of the concept of a public school district when a charter school becomes separated from the district it is rooted in by taking out its corporate papers. It is at that point that the public is left behind in theory and in practice.
    Sure the existing public school districts and school boards have their flaws. But, the structure of public schools is that the citizens have a right to participate. When a corporate charter is established there is no guarantee that the rights the public is entitled to in a democratic public school district will apply. All of the public is entitled to see how its money is spent in a public school district and take action to replace the officials of a district if they majority wants. Thus, a property owner, as well as the parent that rents, has equal rights and access to information about public schools. Charter schools are a black box to most of the public. Little information is provided to the public on how the public’s money is spent. Charter schools are mostly closed to public view whereas although not perfect, public school district’s governance is far more than charter schools.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jim Mordecai


    In my last sentence I wanted to say that school district’s are far more democratic than charter schools. As one that supports democracy I think charter schools are a bad idea because they separated from a school district and leave democratic institutions behind.

    And, it is the charter schools sense of separateness that will allow it to accept $60 per student Jack O’Connell is ordering taken from OUSD general fund to the tune of $480k.

    And you FC call for public schools and charter schools working together while charter school have their hand in the pocket of the OUSD?

    Jim Mordecai

  • Sharon

    By the way, New York City is going through all of this, too, courtesy of their local billionaire, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and his Broad-planted chancellor, Joel Klein.* Read Mike Klonsky’s blog to find out about Eva Moskowitz, a charter school operator in NYC who made $310,000 last year from running four charter schools in NYC. “Moskowitz says her schools are going great but complains that their [sic] ‘underfunded.’”


    *Read the Oakland Tribune’s article by Alex Katz, 8/11/03, “Executives trained by turnaround nonprofit.” It’s available on the Broad Academy.org website.

  • Chauncey

    All of these whites fighting for their rights! But wait, where do they live, come from and go to school? If a charter school, parochial school, catholic school or district school does a good job- god be with them in their work for kids who will run this country and not be run from this country.

    Michel Siegal who the hell is that ? I bet your dad is a lawyer or judge or something who raised you to be a pro union activist in Oakland somewhere and now you might even carry a bullhorn on the weekend yet still have a trustfund. We have tooo many of your kind in this city!

    Jim Mordcai is a freaking old sub who lets kids do as they please when he subbed . You are the voice for saving Oakland schools? N***A Please!

    I dont just support charters, (my kids went to both district and charters in this city) but the limo liberal whites bug the hell out of me. Obama called for more charters, so good. Lets smoke the foxes out of the ghetto and take control of what works for us and break out of these racial and problem profiteers who have pimped color folks for too damn long.

    These the type of people who teach us to hate our own just cause they aint in no union. Thats deadly

  • Betty Olson-Jones

    This is what I sent to Jack O’Connell today:

    February 27, 2009

    Jack O’Connell
    State Superintendent of Public Instruction
    1430 N Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814

    Superintendent O’Connell,

    Allow me to congratulate and thank you, on behalf of the nearly 3,000 teachers of the Oakland Education Association, for finally removing the last vestige of doubt about who you really are: a lobbyist for charter schools and an open apologist and beneficiary of so-called education philanthropists like Eli Broad. Your February 3 directive to State Administrator Vincent Matthews to transfer nearly $500,000 from the Oakland Unified School District’s general fund directly to the coffers of 32 charter schools is nothing but a naked money and power grab, the latest in a series of outrages perpetrated on our community on behalf of your benefactors. But by doing so, you have made our job of educating and organizing the community that much easier because now it’s abundantly clear that the Emperor has no clothes!

    Your claim that this is a question of equity is particularly Orwellian and disturbing. In fact, your performance over the past 5 ½ years as de facto dictator of the Oakland Unified School District makes a mockery of the concept of equity. From the time of the original takeover in 2003, you and your three Broad-trained minions have presided over a series of actions and so-called “reforms” that have left our community torn and destabilized, with schools in primarily poor, African-American and Latino neighborhoods especially hard-hit by school closures, reconstitutions, and charter expansion. You tried to sell District property to pay off a debt that was forced on OUSD by you and Don Perata. You have left our children saddled with a debt nearly twice the size of the alleged deficit that led to the original takeover. Under your reign:

    • Charter schools have proliferated, draining students from traditional schools. Charters are publicly funded yet privately run entities that choose to opt out of the traditional school network, are de facto free to pick and choose their students, and have caused much of the declining enrollment in OUSD. A demographic report by Urban Strategies (June 2007) states, “…between 2000 and 2004, 37 percent of the District’s enrollment loss was due to the growth of charter enrollments, and between 2004 and 2006, the percentage grew to 58.” Oakland’s 32 charter schools enroll 16% of OUSD’s students (7,845 kids), one of the highest percentages in the country. What is equitable about turning our District over to charter school operators while draining our most needy schools of resources?
    • Approximately 40 OUSD schools have been closed, and most have been reopened as new, different schools. This has been tremendously destabilizing to the mostly poor, African-American and Latino communities impacted by the closures, reopenings, and further closures.
    • Students in traditional District schools bear the brunt of debt repayment, because charter schools are exempt from repayment of the state loan! And yet charters are the beneficiaries of a host of funds, from the ADA they receive for each student to large donations – both in cash and in services – from foundations. A few examples: in 2007 the Wal-Mart Foundation donated $230,000 EACH to four charter schools in Oakland. That translates to an additional $2300/pupil at American Indian Public High School, and $7667/pupil at Oakland Charter High! Jerry Brown’s Oakland Military Institute received $500,000 from the Port of Oakland, and his Oakland School of the Arts is housed in the renovated Fox Theater.

    And yet you propose to transfer $60/pupil to all charter school students! Your talk of equity is a smokescreen for your real intention, which is to further destabilize the financial situation in the OUSD, continue to punish traditional schools by accusing them of failing and yet making it even more difficult for them to secure the resources they desperately need, and reward quasi-private charters who are exempt from democratic control.

    As our democratically-elected School Board prepares to resume control of OUSD, this is a slap in the face. Like your failed attempt to sell off District land in 2007, and your equally ill-fated Measure N parcel tax last November, this is yet another example of your arrogant disregard for the teachers, parents, students, and the elected School Board of Oakland. You didn’t win a 15% handout to charters through the ballot box, so you think you can stage a stealth transfer of funds? Do you really think you can once again dictate to this community while you attempt to placate your charter school friends? Not on our watch! We will not submit to taxation without representation!
    Of course, none of this was an accident. A September 2007 report produced by the Center for Education Reform (“National Model or Temporary Opportunity: The Oakland Education Reform Story”) states that “A group of Oakland small school creators, activists, technocrats, and philanthropists decided that the conditions were indeed ripe to try something big.” They had been waiting for access to a “politics free zone.” Once the state, under your leadership, obtained control of the district, you saw your opportunity to attempt to remake OUSD according to the wishes of your benefactors, chief among them Eli Broad. (An Oakland Tribune article of August, 2003 states, “O’Connell is a major recipient of Broad campaign contributions.”) Billionaire Eli Broad happens to think schools should be run like businesses, that teachers unions stand in the way, and that charters are the solution, as publicly funded but privately-run entities.
    But you are sorely mistaken. You have greatly underestimated the power of our community and you stand exposed. Should you have any further political aspirations, you needn’t look to Oakland. We will work hard to expose your real intentions to others, including the other District employee unions, the Alameda Labor Council, and CTA.

    It is time to return full local control immediately, including finances, to our democratically-elected School Board!

    It is time to cancel the state debt as repayment for all the damage that has been done to our School District under your watch!

    Betty Olson-Jones
    President, Oakland Education Association

    Cc: David Sanchez, California Teachers Association, President
    Dean Vogel, CTA Vice-President
    Dan Vaughn, CTA Secretary-Treasurer
    Carolyn Doggett, CTA Executive Director
    Sharon Cornu, Alameda Labor Council
    Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools
    Roberta Mayor, OUSD Interim Superintendent
    OUSD Board of Directors
    Vincent Matthews, OUSD State Administrator
    OEA Executive Board

  • Kareem Weaver

    I’m writing this as a parent, active community member, and Oakland teacher.

    Who owns public schools? Listen to one writer recently published.

    ” We must not make the mistake of believing that “We, the people,” are our government. While politicians and other officials claim to represent us, they are an elite class who pay little attention to their constituents. Further, the school system is a world of its own that has virtually no responsibility to the public it pretends to serve. Their only connection with the town is that local residents are forced to pay their salaries.”

    Fair or unfair, true or untrue, this quote epitomizes the disconnect between our schools and community. The conversation should start and stop with this question, “What does the community want?” Oakland’s community, from the hills to the flatlands, seem conspicuously absent in all of this. Why?

    As a teacher, parent, coach, and a person whose roots run deep in Oakland (and Richmond) I get the sense that parents in Oakland are divided by many things. Our location, language, religion, politics, and culture are scattered. True. But there’s one thing that we overwhelmingly agree on – one thing we all want:

    a good education for our children, and we DO NOT CARE how it is provided.

    You must grasp this or your entire argument is vanity at best – condescending at worst. Nobody doubts the sincerity or passion of the parties involved in these debates But it’s old and tired. $60 per pupil? You’re arguing over 60 bucks per pupil? Likely it’s not the money, it’s the “principle” of the matter. Right?

    Do you know how ridiculous we sound – as educators, when we have these arguments.

    Charter schools, vouchers, public schools, private schools… parents only have two questions –

    1 Does it work?
    2. Can we afford it? (Tuition)

    The administrators, unions, teachers, departments, and staff are all seen as one big conglomerate. The Community does not pin blame on one group while absolving the others. It sees total failure. Any attempt to distance one’s group from the failings of the whole seems cowardly and tribal.

    Wait,wait, wait…the school district owes about 60 MILLION dollars. We don’t know where the money went, “nobody knows nothin'”. Everybody is pointing fingers and saying it was somebody else’s fault. It’s almost as if these different groups are saying they don’t know where the money went because:
    a. We were too busy teaching to pay attention.
    b. We were too busy administrating, we didn’t have control of that
    c. We were only advocating for our members – that’s not on us.
    d. That wasn’t our department.
    d. We were too busy sweeping, coaching, serving, organizing…whatever

    But all of a sudden, these same folks have shaken off their amnesia. Because now they are VERY interested in $60 per kid.

    _________, please. (insert your own word, many could fit)

    It takes a lot of nerve to hold these positions.

    The parents and residents in Oakland want better schools. We don’t care if they’re pubic or charter. We just want them to work. The public doesn’t fully know or care about the differences between charter and public. The old way is unacceptable. Our most precious resource, our children, were so undereducated by the old system that they now are the biggest threat to our safety, economy, and peace of mind.

    The school system and everybody involved with it needs to understand that they no longer have the benefit of the doubt. The community wants better schools for their kids. Toes might get stepped on and mistakes might get made, but the community of Oakland deserves and demands a chance to try and restructure things. That might mean running a school like a business or having a private board of governors. It might mean things you like and some things you don’t like. But it is what it is.

    Usually, the community only hears from the schools when they want our support for a bond measure, to fight a proposition, or when they hit us with paperwork.

    What we don’t hear?
    a. We don’t hear or see exactly where our money goes.
    b. We don’t hear an apology for that whole language fiasco. Whose idea was that?
    c. We don’t hear bad teachers or principals getting fired.
    d. We don’t hear why kids are advanced in 2nd grade, but end up in special ed
    e We don’t hear back from the district office. It’s like we’re a nuisance sometimes
    f. We don’t hear anything but blame towards the parents.
    g. We don’t hear solutions.
    h. We don’t hear the board take responsibility for the wasteland of 1990-2004

    As a teacher, I’v experienced this firsthand. I’ve had my toes stepped on by administrators; I’ve been indignant about some things. But once I calmed down I realized that my toes getting stepped on is inconsequential. If that’s what needs to happen for things to improve in my own teaching, in my school, or even in my district…then so be it. It might be uncomfortable or even embarrassing, but it’s not about me. I have to get over it, learn, and serve as effectively as I can.

    The community is interested in the education of their kids, but vanity, ideology, and partisanship seem to keep getting in the way.

  • Kareem Weaver

    One last thing.

    As a teacher, if I really felt that I was being treated unfairly or that my employment could be effected by some situation – I have a union which is duty bound to advocate for me. They bargain on my behalf, and make sure that my working conditions are suitable.

    Principals, custodians, and secretaries all have unions that protect them (albeit some are more effective than others) and advocate on their behalf.

    Everyone at the school site has someone chartered to look out for their interests except for the students.

    There needs to be the creation of a group which is CHARTERED to advocate for children and is considered during negotiations, budgets, hiring/firing, etc You can not expect groups to advocate, negotiate, and act in the best interest of the worker and the customer at the same time. That’s just common sense. But right now, the kids are unprotected. I have seen parents trying to organize and influence a school policy and budget only to be procedurally ostracized because of their positions, approach, or lack of support. Not all parents are contract lawyers, budget hawks, or educators; there needs to be a group which specializes in such matters and give them a seat at the decision making table. The district school board could be that group, but they have to worry about the macro-level decisions. The SCHOOL SITE could use such an entity to safeguard and protect the rights of the children/customers…wait, isn’t that what charter schools have? A school board? Ahhh. Full circle.

    Maybe we should consider having school boards at each site made up of parents, community members, administrators, etc. with real authority (and don’t give me the SSC stuff)..

  • La Voz

    While the union is sharpernnig their claws for $60.00 are all of you aware that Oakland Charter Schools get charged $450 FOR EVERY STUDENT, not just special education students but for every student on their roster, to fund Oakland Unified School Districts Speacial Education Program.

    Do that math!! Using the numbers above that is 3.6 million dollars that OUSD gets from charter schools for Special Education!! WOW!! Where are the union members now?

    Now so my son attended a charter school in hayward and the district did not provide special ed services, and neither did the charter. We moved and in Oakland our new charter school provided their own tutor because the district did not sebd a person to the charter scholl. This even though they paid!! Couple this with the heart wrenching story from the doctor who son has gone through the OUSD wringer (See Katy’s next story) and you will see that no matter what the union does, no matter the dirty tactics of the OEA and people like Michael Siegal whose daddy is a lawyer , old Oakland school politics, and he a trustfunder- Oakland Families are tired of the districts ineptitude .

    Moreover, the district charges every charter school in the city a percent charge on every dollar they recieve from the state. This is also in millions . Where does all this money go??

    The union does not live in reality and I think OUSD is a closet supporter of charters to an extent cause they are making money at this !

    No matter what any ofe the old guard or new guard say for that matter, people are crying fro school reform. Unions protect teachers, not kids!

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    A previous poster says:

    “there’s one thing that we overwhelmingly agree on – one thing we all want:

    a good education for our children, and we DO NOT CARE how it is provided.”

    But it’s wrong to not care, for this reason. What if my kids are getting a great education because money and other resources are being siphoned away from other schools to pour on my kids’ school? Sure, it’s easy for me to say I don’t care about anything or anyone else, but I’d be an unethical skunk to feel that way.

    Well, that’s the situation with charter schools. They prey on other schools AND THE STUDENTS IN THOSE SCHOOLS. The subsidy they formerly had at the expense of kids in other schools, until SB319 put a stop to that, was a graphic demonstration. The new O’Connell subsidy reinstates that immoral inequity.

  • Newshound

    Immoral Inequity??? Preying on district schools??


    Oakland district schools get hundreds of dollars more from Measure E/G than charter schools, even though charter school parents voted for these measures and pay their share of the extra property taxes.

    There is nothing stopping OUSD from distributing a share of Measure G funds to charter schools, only that it prefers to keep it all for district public schools. I can certainly see why those running OUSD in a tight budget climate do not feel like sharing, but that does not mean it is the right thing to do.

    With the payments charters have to make for facilities out of general operating funds, every Oakland charter student is getting $1000 LESS per student PER YEAR than every district student. Of course charter schools have to raise money (just as district schools do)….they dont get a free school house, they have to rent or build one. Sometimes they get a cheap one from the district, but usually they are out the expensive open market.

    I am sure all the charter schools would give back O/Connell’s $60 per student in a flash if they could get $1000 per student every year, forever.

    Until the district makes that money available to charters, the inequity is real….. but charters are the ones getting shorted.

  • opinionated

    Is it true that the district is getting this kind of money from charters? If thats the case then the union and the district have been lying to us.

    I have worked at the central office before and
    have always supported OUSD and dissapproved of charters, But I have recently seen some serious incompetence at the district level is sickening.

    for example

    * OUSD Board members kicked out OUSD District Officers from their offices, why? So board members , who are to soon regain their control, can move in to them, New furniture, and comps. Funny thing is that they are at OUSD for about 5 -10 hours a week.

    * What happened to the nearly million dollars padi to the law firm? If that were a charter school or public official, what would have been said by the union?

    You know the more the OEA speaks for the Oakland community, the better charters schools sound to me.

  • Sharon

    To Chauncey and other pro-charter folks: You need to inform yourself about the origin of charter schools and who their biggest supporters are. Neither of those parties has your best interest in mind. They are furthering their personal agendas by feeding off your own desire (universally human) to self-segregate.

    An education academic, who knows about the history of the charter school movement, said: “The current push to challenge the ‘public school monopoly’ started with Reagan, who argued that the Civil Rights movement had been responsible for the decline of the schools. His solution: back to basics, accountability, and school choice in the form of vouchers. Charters came into the picture in the early 90s with the Baltimore experiment from Education Alternatives, Inc. That experiment flamed out in 95, but the charter movement was not going away. When Bush came to town with NCLB based in the Houston Miracle lie, the ed industry knew their day had come [as in yippee hooray!]. Elizabeth Debray’s book, Politics, Ideology, and Education, provides the best legislative history of NCLB, offering Judd Gregg’s admission that the testing would demonstrate the failure of public schools, thus opening the door for privatization.”

    You folks need to give a little thought to who the big supporters of charters are. The four members of the Walton family of Wal-Mart, ranked billionaires #3,4, 5 & 6 (with a total net worth of $93.1 billion), are one of the main supporters of charter schools. If you know anything about how they treat their employees, you’ll understand that the best interests of the poor and working class are not at their heart.

    Eli Broad, the billionaire directly involved with the charter school push in Oakland, is #48 on the billionaire list with only $6.7 billion to his name, poor guy.

    I just did some checking about the rest of America. In 2007, one-third of American households with a positive net worth had less than $50,000. Many families only have a NEGATIVE net worth, meaning they owe more than they own. And the average net worth of American households plunged 22.7 percent since the recession began in December 2007, and is down even lower by now.

    So, when a person who is doing fairly well with a net worth of $50,000 drops a penny on the ground, it’s like Broad dropping $1340. Do the math. This man and his billionaire and millionaire friends don’t care a bit about you and your charter school families. They have other things on their minds.

    Their goal is to gain control of this nation’s public education system while so much of the public is gullible and asleep. For years now, they’ve been spending millions and millions of dollars feeding Americans pro-charter propaganda.

    Now, Chauncy, et al, here is the most important point.

    These power-hungry people know that it will be easier to gain control of communities with weak democratic engagement, so they are focusing on those who have historically had their voting rights suppressed and who have responded to that circumstance with disengagement (African Americans). They are also focusing on communities of recent immigrants who are not accustomed and habituated to high levels of democratic participation (Latinos).

    They wouldn’t dare try this maneuver in other American communities; those people wouldn’t put up with it at all.

    Have you ever noticed that charter schools have things all figured out and don’t encourage parents to be involved with true decision-making? If parents don’t like it there, the charter schools’ attitude is that they can just get up and leave.

    On the other hand, there are multiple opportunities for parents to express themselves and make demands at the regular public schools. In addition to voting for school board members and participating at those public meetings, two strong bodies of power at every school are School Site Councils and English Language Advisory Committees. These groups offer the opportunity for parents to make their schools into what they want and need, but of course most parents don’t bother to engage. The fact that most parents don’t bother to engage is the true essence of the problem, it contributes to schools not doing better, and relates exactly to my paragraph above.

    To use an overused metaphor, you pro-charter school suckers are drinking specially concocted Kool-Aid that a lot of powerful people have made to taste so fine.

    What you all need to do is to run, not walk, away from those charter schools as fast as you can. Then step up your engagement as US citizens and force the OUSD Beast to behave!

  • Sharon

    And if one valid excuse for parents not being more involved with their school community is that they are too busy working, this, too, has resulted from the suppression of worker rights and fair wages that has been created by the power of the wealthy business class.

    Can’t you see how they make the conditions work to their advantage?

    By the way, I don’t understand why a single Latino family who knew about, and honored, Cesar Chavez and his hard life’s work of battles fought to earn fair rights for workers, would be willing to use a charter school. They probably just don’t know that charter schools don’t want their teachers to be members of unions. For if those teachers were union members, they would have strong backup when they demanded that they wanted to be treated right.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: I really enjoyed your post. It touches on what I’ve been trying to get across myself.

    The viability of our public schools is critical to the continuation of the United States as anything like the nation we had post WWII, 1950-1960. A nation of capitialism, economic growth, social mobility, and scientific progress the likes of which have never before been seen in human history. It takes a relatively well educated population with a decentralization of power and authority to keep things open enough so change and progress continues at that pace.

    For some reason it has been decided that the USA is to become a centralized power nation with a police state and a controlled economy, a rigid political thought with an Indian/Calcutta/Mexican level of poverty and haves and have-nots. The “civil rights” movement turned into the beginnings of this somehow with the Federalization of primary and secondary education following it. By 2009 we are producing 18 year olds whose average and typical capabilities dovetail nicely into the target society we are becoming. Think of it as living in a town where a smaller and smaller percentage of the drivers on the road know to stop at red lights.

    In the 1950s the public schools as well as the military draft would take the children of degenerates, trash and neer-do-wells and give them a chance at social mobility (by discipline, training and education if they could handle education). Plus the trash was not encouraged to reproduce like OctoMom.

    Today Congress has deliberately flooded the nation with low IQ 3rd worlders (vs educated or skilled immigrants) culturally programmed to reproduce the same at a rate far exceeding the previous national stock. The current rules the public schools operate under are designed to retard education. (Just look at the charts for Calif Prisons/Jails ethnicity rates 1950-2008)

    As for the Charters, they merely represent an escape valve for families who can’t afford private schools (like my LA friends and their society who pay $24k per year per child for private middle and high schools) to make sure that their children qualify for skilled labor or professional positions in the Brave New World.

    Remember, Warren Buffett went to public schools. Later generations of Warren Buffetts certainly will not.

    Sharon, you can’t reasonably call for families to boycott Charters for your political reasons. Every family wants to have at least one son the Dr. Families must do what they can to get their children into the lifeboats. Charters will continue to absorb relatively higher IQ and higher SES kids leaving the public schools with the dregs. Private Schools will have 1st call on the highest status kids. Assortive mating thanks to the Feds. This is the system the government has designed. Individuals can’t stop it and the momentum now is too much to stop in the urban areas.

    Analysts are now looking at the odds for food riots, collapse of local government services, and Continuation of the US Government in it’s present form. Things are far worse than the general public are aware. As things deteriorate you will see people worrying less about personally fixing the problems of the world or the nation and concentrating on themselves and their families. If you have a good Charter School to send your kid to that’s safe and produces results, who cares about the problems with the lowest common denominator public school??

    And if the Charters weren’t here, it would be politically more difficult to destroy the public schools. With the Charters as an escape valve for the concerned families the government is free to send the public schools into full tail-chasing mode.

    As an aside, where do Blacks fit into the Brave New World? They don’t. Watch the mortality tables moving. And watch those blacks making it in the Brave New World look more and more Eqyptian. The future for this nations proletariat is Mexican Indian and similar hue.

  • Sharon

    Nextset: I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Those of us who are willing to explore the issue by continually scratching away at the surface, question things independently, and take the time to inform ourselves, will be the ones more likely to get to the bottom of things. Sadly, unless something drastic occurs, I do believe you are right about the future of our nation’s slave descendants.

    With charter schools appearing to be more “successful” because they have collected and concentrated the children of the strongest low-income families, and with the massive amounts of businessmen-generated propaganda reinforcing the myth that those schools can educate inner-city minority children more effectively than the regular public schools, the concentration of the most difficult-to-educate kids will get higher and higher in the regular public schools. It’s already happening.

    And as the percentage of those challenging students grows, it will appear that those schools are becoming worse and worse. But it’s not that the schools are getting worse; it’s just that their strongest families have abandoned them. Before long, it will be time to string up the razor wire and lock their doors.

    I’ve got to assemble some chairs this afternoon, but I wanted to give readers know this piece of history. You already know it.

    White, middle-class flight from public schools damaged Oakland’s public school system for sure, but there are other instances where something similar happened. The exodus of the black middle-class from previously segregated all-black communities after the Civil Rights Act is another example of what happens when our nation’s most disadvantaged people are left as an isolated mass in communities. Self-segregation leaves the weaker one behind without models of behavior from more advantaged groups. I happen to think this dynamic is much more important than any intelligence effect.

    The benefit of contact with other groups for the disadvantaged is enormous. For instance, after the Civil War when the national railway system was first established, former slaves were sought out to work as Pullman Porters. These men and their families benefited not only from steady employment, but also from the ongoing, close proximity to our society’s most successful members of the time. As the two groups traveled around the nation together, the porters could observe what the elite were reading, how they thought, and how they behaved. They brought that body of knowledge back to their communities and used it to help steer their children’s success.

    For more, here’s a validating perspective by a teacher named Victor Harbison, who has written a couple of things for the New York Times, most recently, Magnet Schools: More Harm Than Good? http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/magnet-schools-more-harm-than-good/

  • ForChildren

    Just some data to put some real facts around the opinions above.

    1. Charter schools serve student population very similar to students in district schools:

    Student demographics in charter public schools / district-run public schools:

    Students getting Free/Reduced Lunch (children in poverty) – 72% charter / 66% traditional Oakland public schools

    English Language Learners – 28% charter / 32% traditional Oakland public schools

    African American – 35% charter / 36% traditional Oakland public schools

    Latino – 51% charter / 34% traditional Oakland public schools

    Caucasian – 3% charter / 7% traditional Oakland public schools

    Asian – 6% charter / 15% traditional Oakland public schools

    ** To the point that families choose charter schools and that is self-selecting. I can see how a person could think that in theory. But, the truth is that charter schools do not educate children who are any different than those in traditional public schools (for proof see data above). There should be more choices (like public charter schools) for parents to have access to. It should be my civil right to choose the best school for my child and not be forced to send my child to a school that is failing and unsafe.

    Responding to Caroline’s comment “Plus, of course, charter schools only get applicants whose parents were motivated to request a school, which self-selects for kids from families interested in their education.”

    – Are you saying that some parents make choices and care for their children more than other parents? Are you saying that there are smarter families and children are in charter schools because the parents found out about an opportunity and took advantage of it? Are you then saying that the parents that are not taking advantage of those opportunities are not as smart or don’t care for their kids as much? Hmmm. All parents care about their kids, are capable of making a choice that benefits their children, and if they are aware of a better (and FREE) education option for their child that they would choose to enroll their child in that school. Again – we should be fighting for more of these options and not less. Go tell parents in impoverished areas of Oakland who are trying to make a better life for their kids that you want to give them FEWER options and you want them to send their kids back to the failing, unsafe school. Can you imagine yourself doing that? If you can’t – maybe you should stop a minute, take a breath, put down your ideological battle shield and work in a positive direction to benefit children. Be part of the solution.

    The key to this one is access to information. I would agree that parents working two jobs probably have a harder time doing research about education options. But, if this is the case, does it make sense to provide less information about charter schools (Oakland school district refuses to let charters participate in their enrollment fairs)? It is almost like, withhold this information that could help these parents working two jobs from them so we can keep them in the failing, unsafe schools. This is illogical.

    2. Philanthropic support – Didn’t Oakland Unified get $24 million from a series of grants from the funders that many commenters are bashing like: the Gates foundation, the Broad foundation, Dell foundation? If these people are also supporting charter schools it is because: 1) they support public education in general and want to see it improve and 2) they see some potential in charter schools that could benefit public education as a whole (typically business people with a lot of money invest their money wisely where they see potential). It is paranoid to think anyone has an interest in privatizing education … especially when these funders are funding Oakland Unified and charter schools.

    3. Charters do more with less – Someone above stated that charters have to pay $450 more per student for Special Ed. Charters also don’t get Measure G parcel tax money and have to pay for their facilities costs out of their general fund – unlike district-run public schools – those two things underfund charter schools by approximately $1,000 per student. They get significantly less, but they are producing amazing results like outscoring district-run public schools by 79 on the API overall and by 212 points in middle school and by 160 points in high school; outscoring with African American students by 77 points; outscoring with low socio-economic status (poor) students by 76 points.

    This is a social justice issue – charter schools in Oakland serve students that are traditionally left behind in our public schools (poor – 72% Free/Reduced price lunch; Latino – 51%; African American – 35%). Charters are serving these kids, getting great results with the kids, and are doing so with significantly less money. I would imagine when these parents who have been slapped in the face by our traditional public education system get a whiff of this – they are not going to be happy about it. I wouldn’t be if I were them.

  • Beyond Bakesales

    I might be dreaming, but here’s my wish: Let’s see what happens to the quality of California’s public education when its budget matches the highest per student allocation in the country rather than being on the bottom. None of this debate would be necessary because the appropriate resources would be allocated to do the job right and I bet the results would reflect money well spent.

    I do believe that there are folks who profit from OUSD’s (and the city of Oakland) instability, so wouldn’t it be nice if everyone concerned about giving our Oakland children the best education possible started to working together, not at cross purposes (and not for any other reason than educating our children?).

  • Sharon

    ForChildren: The millions which you refer to and which OUSD received was used for the the Broad-led and inspired pet-project called “Expect Success!” If you Google “Expect Success Annual Report” and follow that path, you’ll see where the money went. It did not go to classrooms.

    A great deal of the money did go to contributing to, and then trying to correct, the problems and challenges caused by the instability of closing and opening schools, namely trainings, coaches, planning, reorganization, and the like.

    Think what might have been different if the team’s intent and those financial resources had been dedicated to stabilizing, supporting, and providing resources directly to existing schools. But of course, since they had another objective in mind, this was of no interest to them.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Let’s not forget that Jack O’Connell put Measure N on the ballot using his dictatorial powers and against the wishes of the elected Oakland School Board.

    Measure N was to provide $1.8 million to charter schools along with money for Oakland Classroom teacher pay raises.

    However, the $1.8 million of Measure N was not for charter school teacher pay raises but money for the top performing charter schools. Whether the teachers in charter schools that helped the a charter school score high would have gotten much of the $1.8 million is problematic.

    Plus, the reality is that there is little oversight of charter school testing and if Measure N passed unsupervised testing would have been the basis of distribution of the $1.8 million. The State should provide much more money in the case of charter schools to pay for high stakes testing supervision, to make sure that test scores are accurate.

    Finally, you are correct that charter schools like public schools are under-funded. But, the charter school rules were created by the State Legislature. If charter schools were better funded the State Legislature may not have created the charter school law–don’t I wish!

    Somehow you think that the local Oakland property owner should provide the economic equity between charter and public schools that the State legislature did not provide.

    As I pointed out before, the charter schools of Oakland could run a parcel tax of their own. But, they would rather hitch a ride for free on OUSD public schools’ parcel tax.

    Meanwhile, the bill for the failed Measure N cost OUSD about $161,000. That was $161,000 from Oakland Public School District general funding. That was $161,000 for a phone survey and the cost of the election bill from Alameda County to put on the election.

    How much of that $161,000 did charter schools pay? The high scoring charter schools would have received a portion of that $1.8 million a year if Measure N passed. Yet, they contributed zero.

    Seems ForChildren is for charter schools getting money for doing nothing while indifferent to the $161,000 that was taken from the children of the Oakland Public Schools.

    I believe Forchildren would more appropriately be identified as ForSomeChildren!

    And, Jack O’Connell is appropriately identified as ForAnyMeansthatwillmakemeGovernor!

    Jim Mordecai

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    ***Are you saying that some parents make choices and care for their children more than other parents?***

    Yes, I am. Obviously there are troubled, struggling or dysfunctional families — too many of them — that do not have the resources and/or motivation to put effort into their children’s education.

    Anyone who claims to dispute that is either uninformed or insincere.

    Elijah Anderson, an African-American sociology professor at Yale, has written a book, “Code of the Street,” that will clarify that to anyone who really doesn’t get it.


  • Katy Murphy

    This is old news by now, but here’s the news release the Oakland school board sent out while I was on furlough last week:

    Oakland Unified School District Press Advisory

    For Immediate Release

    Oakland Board of Education Questions

    Additional State Funding Demands for Charter Schools

    Board asks state to work collaboratively on

    funding issues instead of imposing allocations

    Oakland – February 25, 2009 – For the past five years, the Oakland Unified School District has worked diligently with the State to bolster its finances and made significant improvements in this area, a fact emphasized in a December 2008 report by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team which recommended that State Superintendent Jack O’Connell restore full local control to the District. While Superintendent O’Connell has yet to act on this recommendation, he has issued a separate directive ordering State Administrator/Trustee Vincent Matthews to allocate an additional $500,000 to Oakland’s charter schools.

    This decision, made without consulting the Oakland Board of Education, runs counter to the spirit of collaboration which has helped restore the District’s health and undermines its independence as Oakland moves to reassume local control of its schools. By directing OUSD to allocate an additional $60.00 for each student enrolled at an Oakland charter school – or half-a-million dollars in total – at a time when financial resources are both precious and dwindling, the Board fears the State’s actions may inadvertently jeopardize the fiscal solvency that the District, its staff and families have worked so hard to achieve.

    By acting unilaterally without full analysis of OUSD’s strategic plans, the Board fears this directive may, contrary to its intent, upset its financial balance and disturb attempts to achieve equity in all District-run schools, including charters. As such, the Oakland Board of Education, a duly elected body judged ready to reassume its full duties and responsibilities, requests that the State Superintendent suspend this directive until it can be discussed in a collaborative fashion with affected parties.

  • ForChildren

    Jim – Thank you for your comments that I, or other charter school supporters, are only for some children – that provides a perfect bridge to this next concept: Why charter schools? How can they help all children by improving public education.

    All charter school supporters I know are involved in the charter school movement to make a bigger impact than just their one school serving their specific kids. The charter school movement is a means to an end – that end is improving public education for all children.

    Here is how it should work:

    Innovations that happen in the charter school movement are shared with traditional public education system to make improvements so that all children benefit.

    In some cases those improvements are less about instruction and more about operations and who is empowered to make important decisions to benefit the students.

    The problem is that 1) at times the “establishment” decides to fight against anything different than the status quo instead of being open to new ideas and 2) charter schools are so busy defending themselves from attacks that they don’t have as much time to pro-actively promote their best practices.

    Just off the cuff, what can traditional public schools take away from charter schools:

    1. There is a lot of benefit from being a mission driven organization. Charter schools are mission driven, so the whole community can be focused on the mission. It helps. All public schools should develop a mission and have community buy-in on that mission.

    2. The adults (teachers and school leaders) closest to the children should make the important decisions. In charter schools, teachers are empowered – they are part of important decisions. You can hear the frustration in the comments above by teachers in the traditional public school system. Perhaps there is something to be learned from how charter schools empower their teachers. Perhaps this is an area where there could be some common ground. Could we put our heads together to figure out how all public school teachers could be empowered to make important decisions for their students?

    There are more innovations such as creating a culture of high expectations, etc. The point is that we can all learn from each other and should learn from each other. I don’t think anyone thinks that we should throw out our public school system, but I think everyone agrees that our public school system needs some tweaking. The status quo simply does not work.

  • the Reform

    To answer a question posted above-

    Yes it is true- Oakland Charter Schools must pay a $450.00 per student tax to Oakland Unified School District.

    And what do theyoffer ? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!

    Every charter school must also pay a 1% surcharge for any monies given to charter schools (This is charter law).

    So Yes Folks, OUSD pulls close 4.5 million from charters.

    Now, lets talk Prop.39- the law that offers charters usage of empty or closed class spaces. Guess who is the landlord? YUP! you guessed it OUSD!!!

    They also sell nurse services, trainings, and resources all at a cost to charters!!

    Ah yes,OUSD making money behond the unions back. How do you like that. There is some capitalist thoughts to these wanna be communists

    Dont believe me- constact the districts charter school office.

  • ex-ousd staff


    You cannot use the term “failing school” without extensive documentation if you want to present a compelling argument in this forum. Those buzz words have no meaning here since most readers of this blog are aware that NCLB was designed on purpose to make every public school, OUSD, Piedmont, wherever, show up as “failing” in its byzantine accounting system.

  • Nextset

    Ex-OUSD Staff: I wouldn’t worry about Piedmont Unified if I were you. They will have enough “Egyptians” to cover themselves handily in the black stats. And so will other districts like Piedmont. They follow the one drop rule when it comes to packing high achieving students into the black catagory – they can handle the NCLB game.

  • ForChildren

    I am so offended by the idea that only the smartest inner city parent would choose a charter school. I wanted to pass along the article below to demonstrate what is happening in other urban areas in the country.

    “Let parents pick: Harlem proves moms and dads are clamoring for school choice

    The parents of Harlem have been given the wonderful benefit of school choice – and they’re taking full advantage of the ability to select the best education for their children…

    The demand for better was on full display over the weekend, when 5,000 people turned out for the first Harlem Education Fair, an event at which parents got to consider the merits of 50 schools. And at which those schools competed for enrollments.”


  • Jim Mordecai

    Charter Schools do not provide the same transparency as a public school. As a corporation they are providing a service and providing the public with information on how the public’s money is spent is not primary. Charter schools act like a math function. Public money is inputted and test scores are outputted. That 1% of a charter school’s budget mention above is suppose to pay for the personnel that will determine that a charter school is spending its money according to law. But, that 1% does not provide enough to provide for supervision of testing.

    Therefore, I suggest that all charter school high-stakes testing be outsourced and all charter school testing be paid by the State of California as just part of the cost of paying for a charter school system.

    As for the existing 1%, it does not really cover testing that 1% should remain as part of California’s charter school system.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Sharon

    ForChildren: A few weeks ago I had an hour long phone conversation with Elijah Anderson, a Yale sociologist who has spent his lifetime studying the inner-city Black community. Feel free to dismiss the knowledge of a person of his standing, but I won’t.

    According to Anderson, it is the more enterprising parents (you’re the only one on this thread who has ever said “smartest”) who will move their kids out of the public schools and into charters because they “think” the charters provide more opportunity. He explained that these are the inner-city parents who monitor their kids more closely.

    He also discussed how those parents think one of the MAIN opportunities charter schools will offer them is the ability for them self-segregate into a smaller group. Whether the group of origin is white & black, white & white, black & black, or anything in between, he says this tendency is human nature.

    According to Anderson, the self-segregation offered by charter schools most definitely creates a situation where the kids who don’t have anyone to advocate for them (those with weaker educationally-minded parents, of which there are too many in Oakland) will end up stuck together without peers from any other groups to associate with.

    Now, if America is deciding to adopt a stricter caste system and wants to solidify a group of “untouchables,” or wants to return to tribalism, then so be it. I hope I don’t live to see what happens to our country then.

    But since charter schools –

    1. aren’t broadly showing themselves to be better than the regular schools (unless it is a report sponsored by a pro-charter organization)
    2. are being pushed by members of our nation’s elite business class (individuals who very doubtfully have the best interest of disadvantaged people at heart)
    3. their operations are opaque and occasionally suspect, even though they use public money

    — then it’s plain to see that they are just another danger to the fundamentals of our democracy.

    At this point, Oakland has plenty of charter schools to choose from for people who want to go that route. It’s fine with me for OUSD to keep the ones it has (unless they’re crooked or bad), but there is no good reason to allow any more.

    Now, if people don’t like the District’s schools, then there’s nothing wrong with getting specific about your complaints, getting engaged with the democratic process, and organizing to make the schools work for you. That’s one big reason the suburban schools are “better” because that’s exactly what middle-class parents do.

  • ForChildren

    I would be interested in seeing the research and data that supports the claim that these parents choose a charter school mainly so they can self-segregate as opposed to get out of a school that is failing and unsafe. I think Maslow may have something different to say about that theory. The 5,000 Harlem parents that came in droves to learn about charter schools and other school options may have something different to say about that as well.

    Theory is nice, but I’d prefer to see the data that supports that claim.

  • Chauncey

    How democratic is a public funded monopoly? Not too much, probably as democratic as a communist leader! Complaints- yea right look at whats happening to Sye at Skyline- pushed out by self interested people!

    Charter schools are perhaps the most democratic innovation public education has seen in recent times. I dont need no Yale educated theorist to tell me about the hood and ghetto politics! Where does he live and kids attend? Self segregatiopn? What the F*** is Yale- a community college?

    I drive a damn truck for a living and I am about to be laid off, what about him or you? Bunch of coffee shop theorists know what time it is in the hood?! Yeah right! This is Oakland- bunch of liberal dummies who tolerate nonsense and allow these theorists to come in and become prophets. Not in my street.

    Bottom line is charter school are free and provide an alternative to district schools- other than hurting the union- what is so wrong about that? Destroying the public education system, hell I think in Oakland the district has taken care of that by itself! Also, charters are public schools!!

    Look- why not just focus on what is working and understand that perhaps the district should be challeneged. This guy Mordecai- has anyone seen him? Look at him at a board meeting and you tell me- is this who you want speaking for the OUSD? Teaching your kids? He is a damn sub in the first place.

    The lines are drawn- polticis remain and the board will run the district to the ground once more. Generations will be lost.

    By the way, Mordecai mentioned the 1% tax on charters, but not the $450 speacial education charge. I checked what the post stated prior and you know what – IT IS TRUE!! Charters are getting bilked for millions by the district. Call the Oakland Charter schools office and see for yourself.

    What woud Mr. Yale say to that? We are supposed to be impressed with a guy named Elijah- HA HA!

  • Kareem W

    Everybody’s a gamblers with somebody else’s money. And everybody has a philosophy with somebody else’s children.

    Chauncey and ForChldren have affirmed the simple point I made earlier (Post 19)

    Point 1:
    >>Do you know how ridiculous we sound – as educators, when we have these arguments. Charter schools, vouchers, public schools, private schools… parents only have two questions –
    1 Does it work?
    2. Can we afford it? (Tuition)<>>But there’s one thing that we overwhelmingly agree on – one thing we all want:a good education for our children, and we DO NOT CARE how it is provided.<<<

    All this political talk, quoting Yale scholars, righteous indignation…. it’s mostly vanity.

    Parents and kids have been trapped in schools you wouldn’t send your worst enemy to. When OUSD can come before the parents and say, “Look, this is what happened from 1994-2004. THIS is the reason why the kids weren’t learning, and why we tried these new programs that didn’t work. THIS is why we amassed a debt. THIS is why we had so many rookies or disinterested vets in high needs classes….. we understand what we did wrong and have fixed the problems. Trust us again.”

    Is anyone saying this? In all of this “discussion” is anyone taking responsibility for the districts failings. Nope. The district, the schools, the teachers, the unions, and the academicians who dare rationalize why parents shouldn’t have FULL school choice – are nothing more than charlatans. (Think “Father Devine” in the the 60’s) They would have us lay our children and their futures on the altar of their ideology, institutions, and political affiliation.

    The supposition is that they know what’s best for the long term health of public education. Track record, please?

    Oakland’s children should be protected – not the institution of public education. The interests of the public system and the children are not the same at all points.

    What schools did their children go to? What were their “options?”

    All this fuss over $60 a head. These are Oakland kids. The man making the decision has so much say in our affairs because the district went broke and was ineffective. Trust me, the regular folks in Oakland do not give a rats’ tail about $60 a head going to charter schools. The question is this…. if the money went to OUSD schools instead – what would you do with it? Specifically

    If you gave OUSD got a 10 million dollar grant TODAY, what would they do with the money? There is no vision. There is no plan? Figure that out before causing a ruckus over $60 kid. Stop playing God with people’s children. Parents should have choices.

    There is such antipathy between public and charter schools, apparently, that we are probably missing out on an opportunity to study a different model.

    I’m an Oakland Teacher. I want what’s best for the kids in our community. If my classroom is it…. then I want them with me. If my classroom is NOT it, then they should have the right to go somewhere else…and I have no problem with some money going with them to follow their choice. If I want them in my classroom, I need to step up my game and earn their confidence.

    Lastly, someone above defiantly said that they want examples of “failing schools”. Let’s please not go there. I am a veteran teacher in the flatlands. I will not let you dismiss a parent’s ideas and words just because they don’t have the details. If you really want to get specific…. I can help you. But let’s not be coy.
    The dismissive attitude towards ForChildren and Chauncey are great examples of the deeper problems in our schools – being condescending towards the community. “We know what’s best for your children.” Really? What does recent history say…

  • Pingback: County official is “alarmed” by O’Connell’s Oakland charter directive - The Education Report - Katy Murphy covers what’s going on in the Oakland schools()

  • Pingback: OUSD vs. O’Connell - The Education Report - Katy Murphy covers what’s going on in the Oakland schools()

  • Pingback: Whose “fair share” is OUSD’s huge debt? - The Education Report - Reporter Katy Murphy’s blog on Oakland schools()