County official is “alarmed” by O’Connell’s Oakland charter directive

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a $60 per student fee that State Schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell has directed his Oakland appointee, Vincent Matthews, to give the city’s independently run, public charter schools — a total amount now estimated to be $450,000.

O’Connell’s directive — which Matthews plans to approve at Wednesday night’s board meeting — was not well received by the Oakland school board. Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan doesn’t like it, either.

Jordan has written an open letter to O’Connell, calling for him to suspend the mandate (O’Connell might not receive it for a few days; he’s in Washington, apparently discussing the federal stimulus package and the achievement gap with our new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, at the Legislative Conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers).

Here it is:

Alameda County Superintendent tells O’Connell:
Directing Matthews to Give Parcel Tax Funds to Charters Sets Bad Precedent

Dear Mr. O’Connell:

Clearly, our goal as a community is educational excellence, opportunity and equity for all children, not just for some children at the expense of others. I applaud your ongoing work as a champion of public education – working to reduce the achievement gap and to fight for education funding. It is within this context that I am alarmed by your recent unilateral decision to redirect nearly $500,000 away from the Oakland Unified School District to charter schools. The decision runs counter to your role to help the district achieve its multi-year recovery plan, jeopardizes years of positive mutual efforts to return the district to local control and, above all, sets bad precedent for future actions of state administrators.

As County Superintendent responsible for fiscal oversight and charged with working collaboratively with the state takeover in Oakland, I object to the recent mandate issued to Administrator/Trustee Vince Matthews to reallocate $60 per enrolled student to charter schools. The priority of the state administrator is to develop a multi-year fiscal recovery plan and ensure that it is implemented. Your directive to Vince Matthews contradicts the goal of fiscal recovery of the district – the sole reason the district was taken over by the state.

Schools throughout California are struggling to make ends meet in light of increasing cuts to education. As Superintendent of Alameda County schools, it is my charge to work proactively to support the financial stability of every district in the county. I question the mid-year transfer of nearly half a million dollars out of district schools as an unnecessary hardship for a beleaguered district.

The question of student equity is an important one. I think we both agree that every child in Oakland deserves a quality education. In these tough economic times, it is important that we work together to ensure that charter schools serving Oakland youth get a share of parcel tax funds through a planned process that will not jeopardize the financial stability of the district.

I call upon you to suspend this directive and work with district officials on an alternative plan of action. Particularly during this time of unprecedented mid-year and ongoing cuts, we are all stressed to find ways to stay afloat. There are difficult decisions to be made. Let’s take this opportunity to work together to develop a stable environment with solid systems to return the schools back to local control on a sound fiscal basis.


Sheila Jordan
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools

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photo of Sheila Jordan courtesy of the Alameda County Office of Education

Katy Murphy

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

  • JH

    Hm… Oakland charter schools outperform the traditional schools, educate nearly 20% of Oakland public school kids and yet 1) OUSD/teachers union/school board purposefully excluded charters from receiving any parcel tax money and 2) campaigned hard against a funding attempt which would have given more money for teachers at BOTH charters and traditional schools.

    Let’s be honest here, the district is doing everything it can to starve charters to death. O’Connell should be applauded for trying to give charters (something closer to but still not reaching) the fair share that OUSD is denying them.

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    O’Connell’s directive and the resulting controversy, including JH’s comment, are further examples of how charter schools inflict damage, disruption, conflict and hostility on public education.

    I’m sorry to see Obama so fully duped by the charter folks, though with the vast wealth, political clout and PR firepower the charter mafia has at its disposal, it’s not surprising that the true situation isn’t evident to him.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Why don’t the District Charter schools put on there own parcel tax campaign without trying to tag along with public school districts?

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    Why don’t Bill Gates and Eli Board just give them another $450,000 on top of the multigazillions they’re already sending to charter schools — that’s chicken feed to them.

  • Chris Vernon

    Besides – it’s fundamentally unfair. Imagine if the tables were reversed and it was traditional public schools that were asking for some of the Gates/Broad largesse sloshed all over our charter schools. Imagine the howls of unfairness. This is an end run around a lost ballot measure, and, as such, is completely undemocratic– never a concern for O’Connell.

    JH – take the time to go to the OUSD website and see where seniors are going off to college from the 3 comprehensive high schools. They compare quite favorably with any of the charters. You might also want to look at the AP testing results.