Oakland’s school parcel tax measure, a year in the making (and counting)

Tribune file photo

I can’t imagine spending a year of my life trying to come up with a school parcel tax measure that is palatable to Oakland’s edu-political extremes, but some brave souls have done just that. And, believe it or not, the democratic process behind simply crafting the ballot measure has yet to run its course.

Maybe you can help the parcel tax coalition and the Oakland school board (that, or further muddy the waters!), by opining on the following points that are still up for debate. That is, if you think the school district should float another parcel tax to boost the compensation of its employees in the first place.

Should the measure…

a) go on the June 2010 ballot Continue Reading


Schwarzenegger says he stands with Obama, calls for swift changes to California ed laws

File photo

During a press conference this morning that veered suddenly into a Q & A about prison reform (and never really went back), the governor announced he was lining up with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama — and that the state planned “to go all out” to make California eligible for competitive federal stimulus funding.

Schwarzenegger said he was calling a special legislative session to do away with laws that might make California ineligible. He has asked state Legislators to present him with a package by early October that would lift the state’s charter school cap and allow teacher evaluations to be linked to student test scores.

“The Obama administration has pointed to California and said we have no way to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers, and I happen to agree with that,” Schwarzenegger said. “They call it a firewall and I say, `Let’s tear down that wall.”‘ Continue Reading


Liquid diet: School officials to fast in protest

A group of school board members, administrators and parents at the Oxnard School District in Ventura County are giving up solid food for seven days in protest of the state budget cuts, according to the Ventury County Star.

They call themselves Solidarity to Achieve and Recover Valued Education, or STARVE.

Do you know anyone in Oakland or Alameda County who has starved themselves for public education? (Skipping lunch to help a struggling student doesn’t count.)


Senator pushes back against single college track

A career technical education bill that has gotten some bipartisan traction in Sacramento might check a college prep movement that’s sweeping through California school districts.

Sheilagh Polk, of the Oakland-based Education Trust-West, says she believes SB 381 is meant to have a chilling effect on districts that are thinking about changing their high school graduation requirements to include “A-G” courses — 15 classes needed for admission to a state university.

If this bill passes, all students in those explicitly “A-G for all” districts would have to take three career technical education courses in addition to the 15 college prep courses. (The bill would only apply to districts that adopted the policy after June 30, 2009, so Oakland Unified might be exempt) Continue Reading


California lawmakers pass budget

They did it this afternoon, approving a $6 billion cut to schools ($8.8 billion, when you include the state’s university systems). The budget falls $1.1 billion short of closing the deficit.

You can read a detailed story by Contra Costa Times Reporter Steven Harmon here. He writes:

Hundreds of thousands of people who depend on government services — from college students and elementary school teachers to welfare-to-work recipients and sick children — will bear the brunt of a budget package months in the making.

Of the $26 billion in budget “solutions,” $15.5 billion come by way of cuts, with schools ($6 billion) taking the biggest hit. Continue Reading


Obama calls social promotion “a disservice”

In an interview with the Washington Post about his education agenda, Obama cited a controversial Chicago policy as an example of how his administration would raise standards.

In the 1990s, Chicago Public Schools stopped promoting students to the next grade — or graduating them from high school — just because they were a certain age. Obama said it is now “obvious” that so-called social promotion is a “disservice to students” and their parents.

(You might recall that high-level Oakland school administrators have taken the opposite tack, as seen in the student retention memo that I posted the other month.) Continue Reading


California teacher unions split again over budget

Associated Press photo of lawmakers announcing tentative agreement

The president of the California Teachers Association — the state’s biggest teacher union — told me yesterday that he just wants lawmakers to “vote for the damn budget.”

Sure, the tentative budget deal made by the “Big Five” on Monday includes billions of dollars in new cuts to schools, community colleges and state universities, David Sanchez said, but it’s “time to move on and get the state back to fiscal solvency.”

The California Federation of Teachers — the union that represents community college faculty and adult school teachers, among others — has taken the opposite position (as it did in the May special election). A newsletter, “Inside CFT,” urged members to convince legislators to vote “no”: Continue Reading


Spinning school improvement

Much was made of the progress in Chicago’s public schools when Arne Duncan, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was tapped to become the U.S. Secretary of Education.

But maybe the gains made during Duncan’s seven-year tenure in the Windy City weren’t that boast-worthy, after all.

USA Today reporter Greg Toppo points out the contrast between some of the statements made by President Barack Obama about Chicago schools in December and the findings of a new report by the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago, a group that backed Duncan’s and Mayor Daley’s calls for more mayoral control of the educational system. Continue Reading


Fighting the suspension of Prop. 98

In case you haven’t seen it, the California Teachers Association has launched this television ad on the governor’s proposal to suspend Proposition 98 — California’s mandatory minimum school spending guarantee — to close the state’s $26 billion budget deficit.

Unlike other districts, Oakland still has summer school programs. But that’s largely because of money left over from previous grants. That could change next year.

As of this morning, state lawmakers still haven’t agreed on how to solve the budget crisis, after working through the weekend.