Oakland teachers union stays neutral on tax

The Oakland teachers union opposed the school district’s last (failed) attempt to raise its members’ salaries via local taxation (“Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Act“). But tonight, union leaders decided to take a neutral position on a similar initiative, Measure L, according to union President Betty Olson-Jones.

“I think it was the best we could have hoped for, given the track record,” said Peter Fiske, a Chabot Elementary School parent who’s volunteering on the parcel tax campaign.

Rebranded as “Oakland Unified School District’s Student Achievement, Support and Safety Measure,” Measure L would cost Oakland property owners $195 a year and generate an estimated $20 million. Though “teacher” does not appear in the title, most the funds would go to the salaries of teachers and other school-based employees.

The teachers union, which held a one-day strike in April and has yet to resolve a contract dispute with the district, withdrew from the parcel tax coalition last fall. Its leaders didn’t want any of the proceeds to benefit state-funded, privately run charter schools — and, if passed, about 15 percent of the proceeds will go to charters.

Fiske noted that a number of teachers have endorsed the measure, as well as parents, politicians, would-be politicians and organizations, and said the endorsement list grows each day.

Who’s supporting Measure L? Some of the supporters’ names appear on a flier that went out today.

In other OEA news: The union’s representatives also voted to endorse Ben Visnick, an Oakland high teacher and former union president who’s running for school board against incumbent Gary Yee. They voted “no endorsement” for the Oakland mayor’s race.

Katy Murphy

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

  • Cranky Teacher

    Can’t believe they didn’t oppose Perata, the guy who, along with Jerry Brown, Ward from Broad, and FCMAT, engineered the financial collapse and takeover of OUSD.

    Short-sighted. Quan or Gordon are not perfect, but they are actually local and thoughtful, unlike Tammany Hall Perata. I know for a fact Quan’s kids went to OUSD, as well.

  • Cranky Teacher

    FYI, even as a teacher, I’d vote against the Parcel Tax — not so much because of the charter issue as because it is straight regressive.

    Meaning: It is a flat tax, regardless of your wealth or the value of your property.

  • Bob Mandel

    Hi Katy. I posted a response to this two days ago? Did it not come thru or…?

  • Katy Murphy

    You posted it under another entry — the one about Manzanita SEED, I think. Feel free to copy and re-post it.

  • Peter Fiske

    Cranky – you are not correct: Measure L is means tested.

    Families whose combined family income is at or below the income level qualifying as “very low income” per Section 8 of the US Housing Act (42, U.S.C.A., Section 1437) are exempt.

    Families who do not own a parcel, of course, pay zero.

    Measure L funds bypass Sacramento, bypass OUSD and go directly to school sites – it is the most EFFICIENT way to direct funding to where it is needed most: our schools.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Peter Friske:

    Saying that Measure L is “means tested” is a half truth. The people qualifying in Oakland for Section 8 housing are unlikely to own property. I can’t imagine that number is very large. Can you? But, industry and commercial property owners and wealthy home owners pay the same tax regardless of their means to pay.

    The section 8 means test is eye-wash and a distraction from the overwhelming repressiveness of Measure L property taxation.

    The fact that the School Board would put on the ballot– during these hard economic times–when many in Oakland are being laid off of their job and barely able to pay their mortgage–a regressive tax caused one Board member to vote against putting Measure L on the ballot at this time. Those voting to put Measure L on the November ballot should be held accountable at the polls. A School Board Member vote for Measure L should be reason enough to vote against an incumbent.

    David Kakishiba, District, 2; Gary Yee, District 4; Christopher Dobbins, 6 District 6; are Oakland School Board incumbents on the November ballot. Only Gary Yee’s incumbency is challenged by school teacher, and former Oakland Education President Benjamin Visnick. Although only one of the three Board seats is contested, but not voting for Board incumbents will send a message that the public does not endorse the Board’s actions and inactions. Clearly it would be better if there were contested elections for all the Board seats.

    The Board could have put on the ballot a progressive tax that was based on square footage of property. Since a progressive tax didn’t poll as well as a regressive tax, the Board decided to go with the regressive tax.

    The Board also could have put a progressive parcel tax Measure on the November ballot that did not include language funding Oakland charter schools.

    Such a measure would provide voters with a choice as to whether they wanted to support charter schools with Oakland property taxes. Not allowing voters to vote separately between taxing themselves for public schools and taxing themselves for charter schools unfairly puts voters in the position that if a voter wants to support Oakland public schools they will have to vote for Measure L even if they are against supporting charter schools that are in competition for the District’s students.

    I suggest the voters of Oakland make democracy work and vote out the incumbent, Gary Yee and keep voting out the incumbents until the Board bends to the will of the people and makes policy in the interest of the majority of people that elect it.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Bob Mandel

    I inadvertently posted this in response to the Manzanita Seed article when I meant it to be here. I repost it because it evoked a series of responses.

    For those who challenged and dismissed my assertions about charter schools, I invite you to challenge and dismiss Diane Ravitch, author of the Death and Life of the Great American School System. Ms. Ravitch, a lifelong Democrat, served in the Bush I Administration and supported the concept both of charters and
    “accountability”. Her experience with both and with the “Billionaire Boys Club” which is driving them led her to publish the book which examines very carefully why her previous support was mistaken.

    I am reposting my original with one major correction–an omission on how the tax does (or does not) fall on Corporate Oakland.

    “In addition to providing funds to charter schools which cream the best students and push out lower achieving ones, sending them back into the public schools which have the legal responsibility to try to educate everyone, the proposed new Parcel Tax is regressive. In a time of Depression and massive unemployment, this tax places a disproportionately heavy burden on low-income homeowners. Whether you own a $1,000,000 property in the hills or a $75,000 home in the flatlands you still pay the same flat rate. Hardly “equitable.” Indeed, if you own a multi-million commercial property such as Shorenstein’s City Center—home to Wells Fargo and Clorox, among others—you also pay the same flat $195 rate. [omitted in original—RM] In contrast, Alameda has a split role tax that taxes business and corporate wealth more heavily. The sponsors of Measure L chose to go regressive knowing full well that a condition for OEA support was that the tax be progressive.
    No accident that Arne Duncan comes to town to celebrate the Oakland USD Administration when it sponsors a Parcel Tax that not only will subsidize his favorites—charters—but will do so by taxing those with low income proportionately far more heavily than those at the top. While many teachers and members of other OUSD unions hope the new Parcel Tax on top of the old will provide job security and a raise, at this very moment class sizes are growing, programs are being cut, and the Admin is demonstrating in advance of the Measure L vote that it will spend the money again precisely as it sees fit.”