Parcel tax for Oakland teachers, Take 2

Will two-thirds of Oakland’s voters approve a parcel tax that would generate about $20 million a year for teachers and other school employees — and cost property owners $195 per year?

Will the teachers union, itself, back the measure this time around?

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said proceeds from the levy would amount to raises of about 6 percent for school staff (“teachers,  teachers’ aides, safety officers and other student support staff,” as the summary reads ). The text of the Nov. 2 measure doesn’t spell out how those raises would be distributed.

I was away last week when the school board voted to call the election, but as my colleague Angela Woodall noted in her story, the timing is tricky. The Oakland City Council, which have laid off more than 85 cops so far to balance the budget, have put a $360-per-parcel tax on the same ballot.

If both measures are approved, property owners will have to pay an extra $555 each year in the midst of a deep recession.

Given the economic climate and the competition on the ballot, the school tax will likely need widespread support and a compelling campaign to pass. In 2008, a similar measure — a tax for teachers — failed by a thin margin. The teachers union campaigned against it, mainly because 15 percent of the revenue would have gone to the city’s publicly funded, privately run, non-unionized charter schools.

(Noel Gallo, the sole board member who supported the ill-fated Measure N, which was placed on the ballot by then-State Administrator Vince Matthews, cast the lone vote against this one. Touche!)

But this measure, too, would distribute some of the funds to charters, which educate more than 15 percent of the city’s public schoolchildren. And the union dropped out of the parcel tax coalition last fall, saying the charter school issue was a deal-breaker.


Katy Murphy

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

  • Sue

    None of the Oakland measures (last I saw, there were going to be four of them) will pass. Oakland’s voters are hurting too much in this recession.

    I will seriously consider voting for the OUSD parcel tax increase, just because my default setting is to support schools ahead of everything else. But I’ll also really look hard at what my teachers are recommending – I followed their recommendation and voted against the 2008 measure.

    That’s one prediction – it’ll be interesting to see what others here expect.

  • Hot R

    A lot of bickering about the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic… Isn’t 85% of the money better than none of the money? The union has to compromise, otherwise it just looks foolish, and against the best interests of kids.

    But will both taxes pass regardless of the economy and the criticisms of education in Oakland? The Alameda parcel tax failed by 1% of the vote – but the organized opposition attacked high administrative costs, low test scores, unions which protected incompetent teachers, and high legal costs. Alameda has a good school system and none of the attacks had any basis in fact, with the possible exception of legal fees. But AUSD had to defend itself against 2 lawsuits brought by the anti-parcel tax group. The attacks were just enough to defeat the parcel tax which would have been $659 per household. The measure had the full support of the teacher’s union, but the school board was not unanimous in its support.

    Now Oakland does not have high test scores, or even medium test scores, has huge financial problems, and an overload of criticism about all its budgeting and educational practices, along with much publicity about bad teachers protected by the unions. The economy is no better. Will Oakland voters prop up BOTH the police and the OUSD?

  • harlemmoon

    This, m’ friends, is a classic case of too little, too late.

    No way this passes. A similar measure was originally voted down – ironically by the teachers’ union – for the wrong reasons the first time around. Now, they come back – tail firmly tucked between cheeks – looking for what amounts to a bailout.
    Let me get this Oakland teachers’ logic right: Vote for this parcel tax, which will cost me an additional $200 a year, so that you can have a raise.
    In an economy where millions are out of work, and millions more are barely holding onto their jobs (not to mention their homes and autos), you have the temerity to ask me to take on more costs to contribute to your coffers?

    Darn, no wonder our children are dense; these teachers don’t make a grain of sense.

  • Harold

    I have not read a thing about OEA supporting this parcel tax.

  • harlemmoon

    Ok, Harold, I guess you’re one of those who have to be spoon fed his Wheaties. It’s what’s NOT being said that you must pay the closest attention to. In other words: Read between the lines, m’ friend.

  • Hills Parent 13

    The union seems to be both stubborn and short-sighted in its thinking. Now certainly seems like the wrong time to be asking for more when just about everyone else is making due with less.

    I wish we could fund a lot of things. Teachers, the good ones certainly, deserve more. We should have more police officers too in our dangerous city. On a smaller level, I would also like to see library hours expanded and trash service reinstated at our local parks. I wish my talented friends who are out of work could find employment and that others weren’t struggling to make ends meet. But this isn’t the economic reality.

    I predict that all the measures will fail. And thinking about the pain we’ve got coming (loss of services, declining money for schools, bigger classes) it really does make me want to move, sadly.

  • J.R.

    This won’t pass because the public is beginning to realize what the real truth is, money for education doesn’t mean “money for children to learn” it really means money to support an excessively large institution that employs many people, and oh yeah some teaching happens too. Enough is enough!

  • livegreen

    Actually, Library hours could be expanded. The City decided to cuts hours & services through furloughs, but not per hour compensation. It was recently posted on another blog that 2/3 of Measure Q (our property taxes for libraries) have gone to wages and not books or library construction & renovation.

    Pass a tax & it doesn’t go to services. It goes to higher salaries. Economy tanks?
    Pass another tax to maintain those same salaries.

    I’m all for fair wages & compensation. But the Public Sector should share when the economy is in decline, just like they shared when the economy was doing well.

  • oakey

    I will definitely vote against it (and all the city’s attempt at getting more money), but I have no idea what the imbeciles who vote here will do.

    This district, both leadership and unions, are the reactionaries. They are opposed to Race to the Top and other reforms. They claim all we have to do to solve the poor performance of OUSD is to give them more money.

    Why are they not talking about eliminating the ‘dance of the lemons’ by allowing the principals that we hold responsible for operating our schools to be able to FIRE bad teachers? Do you think we don’t have bad teachers in OUSD? See my first comment.

    Michelle Rhee, a real reformer, fired 5% of the Washington DC’s teachers, and gave notice to 10% more that they were in danger of the same.

    Other reforms, like removing tenure protection, using performance reviews as a basis of setting salaries, moving toward charter schools are on the table everywhere that is walking the walk on school reform. [New Orleans, which has shown some of the most dramatic school performance improvement, is now 60% charter.]

    But not here.

    And that’s why they do not deserve a dime more from the taxpayers.

  • harold

    The district administration and the School Board, put together this Parcel Tax proposal.

    Teachers, as of today, have not taken a position on this initiative.

  • J.R.

    Teachers do not need to take a position on this issue for the public to see where they stand, their union has made it crystal clear by their stance on every single issue that affects children what their motives and priorities are. The taxpayers are watching what they “do”, and what they have done in the past. Never should we listen to what they say, because actions speak louder than words.

  • harlemmoon

    Thank you, J.R.

  • J.R.

    You are welcome, and thank you for being a concerned citizen.