Oakland’s School Options deadline is here

Today’s PSA: If you’ve been shopping for public elementary, middle and/or high schools in Oakland and want to take part in the first round of school placements, your deadline is 3 p.m. Friday.

You must apply in person at the Family & Community Office, 2111 International Boulevard OR at any OUSD school. (I initially neglected to mention the latter option.)

For more details and contact information, visit OUSD’s enrollment page here. You can find the forms here.


Tough-love parenting

Amy Chua says she won’t let her daughters play an instrument other than piano or violin, have “play dates” with friends or be in a school play, let alone watch TV or play video games.

In her Sunday Wall Street Journal essay, the Yale law professor champions the virtues of “Chinese mother”-style parenting, an approach with rigidly high standards and little concern about a child’s self-esteem. She says children aren’t as fragile as people think; she sees no problem with calling her daughter “fatty” if she’s gained weight or “worthless” if she is disrespectful or receives a B on a test.

“Western parents,” as she calls them (and she says she knows plenty of Chinese-Americans who fit into that category), worry more about their child’s individuality and feelings of self worth than about their success.

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Oakland’s Eastside high redesign (#2)

East Oakland School of the Arts, a small Castlemont school. Tribune file photo by D. Ross Cameron.

Five years ago, the three high schools on East Oakland’s Castlemont campus had almost 1,300 students. That number has dwindled to 700 — a 45 percent drop.

The Fremont campus, also in East Oakland, has seen a similar slide. A decade ago, more than 2,000 students went to school there. Now, there are just 940.

Both campuses were divided into small, themed schools — each, with its own principals and administrative staffs — as part of an improvement strategy that received millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But since then, there’s been an exodus from Fremont and Castlemont. Many families from the East Oakland flatlands have used the district’s school choice policy to send their children to schools with better reputations across the city. Others have opted for one of the charter schools that have opened in their neighborhoods.

As a result of the dwindling numbers, the great high school  “redesign” of 2003 and 2004 is — yes — being redesigned.

Troy Flint, a district spokesman, has confirmed that a team of administrators and other staff is drafting a proposal for the future of both high school campuses. Youth Empowerment School, in the East Oakland hills, will be part of the Fremont Castlemont plan, he said.

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Assembly speaker proposes extension of child care subsidy

John Perez, California Assembly Speaker. AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliWEDNESDAY UPDATE: No resolution was reached at today’s First 5 California Commission meeting. (I’ve posted a short statement from First 5 in the comments section.)

California Assembly Speaker John Perez wants to extend to Jan. 1 subsidized child care benefits that the governor recently vetoed out of the budget, the Sacramento Bee reports today.

According to the Bee, Perez estimates it will cost $60 million to provide the benefit in November and December, and he will ask First 5 California —  a commission created from a 50-cent cigarette tax that voters approved in 1998 — to contribute the bulk of it.

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California’s child care cuts, explained

Preschool. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffIn California, more than a half million children take part in a publicly funded child care program while their parents work or go to school.

But the waiting list for one of the coveted seats is 180,000 children long — and about to get longer, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

On Nov. 1, nearly 60,000 children whose families have been off welfare for two years or more will lose their spaces.

Those children and their families are  in what’s known as “Stage 3″ of CalWORKs, the welfare-to-work program. Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto powers on Friday to strike Stage 3 from the budget.

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VETOED: funding for child care, special education

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. File photo.Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto power tonight to cut nearly $1 billion from the budget the Legislature passed this morning.

The governor reduced CalWORKs funding for child care, mental health services for special needs children, and a host of other state programs that were initially included in the $87.5 billion budget.

You can find a copy of the enacted budget here, along with a list of the vetoed items.

From a Los Angeles Times story that came over the wire:

The governor slashed 23 line items from the $87.5-billion general fund budget, including $256 million from a program for school-age children of families moving off welfare, $133 million from mental health services for special education students and nearly $60 million from AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

Schwarzenegger did not explain his actions, but a report issued by his finance department said the savings from his vetoes would “create a prudent reserve for economic uncertainties.” The state’s reserve for emergencies such as battling wildfires will grow from $375 million to $1.3 billion, the report said.

Advocates for the poor said the governor’s cuts were too deep, especially after a months-long standoff had produced a compromise spending plan that largely spared health and welfare programs from the ax.

“This recession is a time when people in communities need the help the most, and yet the governor is unilaterally making these cuts,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group.

The spending plan totals about $125 billion overall and passed the Legislature a record 100 days after the budget year began. It addresses a $19.1-billion deficit without new taxes and relies heavily on creative bookkeeping, as well as on cuts to public schools and state workers’ paychecks.

Democratic lawmakers fought back furiously after Schwarzenegger cut about half as much — $489 million — from last year’s general fund, challenging in court his authority to wield the veto pen so liberally. The courts sided with the governor, and the bitterness appeared to linger.

Schwarzenegger’s vetoes “were directed at making life more difficult for California’s working parents and the poorest, sickest and most elderly Californians. This is disappointing, but not surprising,” Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“Now we know we have no say over it whatsoever,” said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. “It’s just a question of how cruel he wants to be.”

Other Democrats were calling Schwarzenegger a hypocrite. Earlier this week, he had held a news conference announcing his support for extending foster care to young adults up to age 21; they’re currently cut off after turning 18. But on Friday, the governor vetoed nearly $80 million in child welfare services, which includes money for foster care.

“It is unfortunate that the governor just this past week portrayed himself as a child welfare advocate, and then within days he devastated foster kids with the stroke of his blue pencil,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Karen Bass, the former speaker who is now running for Congress. …


CA finally has a budget. What it will mean for public schools.

artwork at Oakland's Sante Fe CDC (Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda)Good news for early childhood centers: The California budget passed a few hours ago (and 100 days late) includes most the funding for child care that the governor had proposed to cut — a threat around which many school districts built their budgets.

Now, districts will have to figure out how to rebuild the programs they cut around a worst-case scenario budget assumption.

The upshot for Oakland: Continue Reading


Governor signs bill to help foster youth

Big news today for foster youth: Gov. Schwarzenegger announced he has signed AB 12, a bill to extend services to those in foster care until age 21, California Wire reports.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 California teens “age out” of foster care each year when they turn 18 or 19; now, the state will be able to provide them with some form of support system — largely, by tapping into additional federal funds — for another three years, according to a fact sheet from the office of Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr. (D-San Jose), who sponsored the bill with Assemblymember Karen Bass: Continue Reading


A revived DREAM Act, and what it would mean

TUESDAY UPDATE: The DREAM Act died in the Senate today:



A proposed amendment to the annual defense bill would give at least temporary legal status to people who were brought to the United States illegally before they turned 16. That is, if they’ve been in the country for five years, if they’re under 35 when the act is passed, and if they’ve earned a high school diploma or GED.

DREAM Act letter-writing campaign Sunday at Asian Law Caucus. Bay Area News Group photoMy fellow Bay Area News Group reporters Matt O’Brien and Matt Krupnick wrote a story about this legislative move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They interviewed Aaron Townsend, principal of Coliseum College Prep, about what it would mean for his students if it passed. Here’s an excerpt: Continue Reading