Chill out. Nobody is actually planning on laying off 140 cops, folks.

Sigh. Media reports of a possible layoff of 140 police officers have the whole damn town in a tizzy. Relax, folks. Nobody is getting rid of a quarter of our police force, no matter what you’ve read. Here’s the story.

When I first wrote about this proposal two weeks ago, I said that it obviously wasn’t going to happen, but also that I couldn’t imagine why Dan Lindheim would even suggest it. Then I got distracted with other issues and the why got pushed to the back burner for something to deal with another day. This week’s ridiculous fearmongering, of course, shot it right back up to the top of the list, and well, here you go.

You’ve probably heard more than a little bit about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more frequently referred to as the stimulus package. One of the many departments that gets to give away stimulus money is the Department of Justice (DOJ). Among other things, the DOJ will be awarding $1 billion through what’s called the COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP). This money is awarded through a competitive grant process. For all the details, you can read the entire grant application guide here. Oakland has applied for $23 million a year in funding through this program.

So, basically, the Federal government realizes that cities are hurting with the economic downturn and will have problems affording police. So they’ve created a grant to be administered through the Office of Community Oriented Policing that will hopefully ease a little bit of the pain. The grants are for three years. Cities can apply for CHRP funding to do one of three things:

  • Hire new police officers.
  • Re-hire police officers that they’ve had to lay off because of budget cuts.
  • Pay to keep on police officers who are currently scheduled to be laid off at a specified future date because of budget cuts.

Did you catch that third one? This is key. I have heard so much crazy speculation about why Dellums would float the layoff proposal. Is it because he hates the police? Is it to terrify people into voting for more taxes? Is it to make the Federal government feel sorry for us? The answer, my friends, is none of the above. The reason the Mayor submitted a budget that includes a layoff of 140 police officers in October is because that without scheduling that layoff, we are flat-out not eligible to receive a CHRP grant. It is not a strategic decision, it is a practical one.

This is how it will work. The budget (PDF) the Mayor submitted fully funds the police force through October 1, 2009. As of October 1st, funding for 140 police officers will be removed from the General Fund. This creates the scheduled layoff we need to have in order to be eligible for the grant. If we get the grant, those officers will then, as of October 1st, be funded from CHRP money.

Why we should get it

CHRP is a competitive (as opposed to formula) grant. That means we aren’t guaranteed anything. More cities applied for it than the stimulus money will be able to fund. But, we have a really good shot at getting what we asked for, not, as the City would have you believe, because Dellums is flying to DC to beg for it, but because the consideration criteria for the funds are really helpful for Oakland.

They want to know all the normal stuff, like your budget, and your budget deficit, and how much your revenue decreased and the layoffs you’ve done and all that. We’re in pain, of course, but probably not particularly exceptional in those areas. But they also want to know the following specific to the city:

  • the percentage of families living below the poverty line
  • the unemployment rate
  • the foreclosure rate
  • how much crime we have

Since Oakland is near the top of the list of “worsts” in like, all those categories, we don’t need to work very hard to demonstrate our need.

Why we might not get it

On the down side, part of the deal with the CHRP is that you have to promise to retain all the positions funded under the grant for at least a full year after the federal funding expires. Basically, we’re supposed to say that we intended to pay for the officers out of the General Fund starting three years from now. Now we can say we plan to do that, no problem. But if anyone at the DOJ takes the time to look at our projected budget issues three years from now, well, then it’s a whole different story. Because not only do we have a bunch of terrifying new costs about to crop up, we also will be even more screwed than it looked like a few days ago, because the budget the Mayor submitted pushes off even more costs until 2011. So our actual ability to cover those costs three years from now is…let’s just say questionable.

What happens next

So we’ve applied for the grant, and now we have to approve a budget that includes 140 police layoffs in order to be eligible to receive the grant. Once we do that, two things can happen. One, we get the money. Hooray. This, however, is not without its own issues. CHRP funding covers the full cost of entry-level police salaries and benefits for however many positions the award is for (ideally, 140). It does not cover salaries that are higher than entry level, meaning that the General Fund is still going to have to pay part of the salary costs for those 140 officers. It also does not cover overtime. So the General Fund is still on the hook for that as well. But still, $23 million a year will help a lot.

Two, we don’t get the money. If this happened, and we went ahead with the layoffs of 140 officers from the General Fund, that would put us in violation of the Measure Y mandated minimum staffing of 739 officers. Therefore, to implement the layoffs, we would have to stop collecting Measure Y taxes and lay off additionally the 63 officers funding from that money, for a total of 203 laid off police officers. This would bring Oakland’s sworn police force strength down to a clearly unacceptable 600 officers.

Why that won’t happen

Well, obviously, laying off 200 police, a full quarter of the force, is beyond politically unpalatable. People simply would not stand for it. But we wouldn’t just be cutting police. Because we would have to cancel Measure Y to implement the layoffs, we would also be giving up over $6 million a year in violence prevention funding, and $4 million a year in fire department funding. So not only would you wickedly piss off pro-police, law and order types, you would also have the social programs people up in arms, plus a bunch of irate hills residents terrified of their house burning down and nobody being there to help them. We would have to give up the street outreach and re-entry programs the Mayor is so attached to. There are other financial reasons we can’t do this, which aren’t really worth getting into right now, except to say that basically we’d be inadvertently creating an even bigger General Fund deficit and have to make more cuts anyway.

So what will actually happen? Well, we find out in late summer if we get the CHRP money. If we don’t, then we will have to revisit the budget to put those 140 officers back into the General Fund (in order to meet the Measure Y mandated minimum staffing level). Which would mean making another $23 million in cuts from other sources. That’s hardly unheard of – we had to go back and cut $42 million from the budget last October, and we did it again this Spring. We should all cross our fingers that the City gets all the CHRP funding it asked for, because if not, it will require more unpleasant choices. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, stop panicking. Your police aren’t going anywhere.

47 thoughts on “Chill out. Nobody is actually planning on laying off 140 cops, folks.

  1. Bob Roat

    V – I’m wondering what happens in three years. As I understand it from your 05/06 post, there is a large PFRS payment due about then, and from the budget, it appears the City wants to reschedule a lot of other debt payments out at least two years. I also seem to recall that the Measure Y funds sunset at some point and those costs are supposed to be absorbed into the general fund. The only proposal I have seen in the proposed budget for addressing these costs is a suggestion to evaluate long term leasing of the street parking meter and city off-street parking venues to a private entity. Do you have a sense of the total cost we will face in three years for the debt, the measure Y funding, and the reabsorbtion of COPS-funded police into the general fund? Also, the budget talks about a five-year budget plan, but I haven’t found that (I’ve only made it through page 300 of the 840 pages, though, so maybe it is in here somewhere).

  2. jarichmond

    Thanks for this post. I figured when I saw the news that there must have been more to it than the local media was letting on, but I didn’t realize that those three criteria existed. I have to say, though, it’s pretty sad that my (and apparently many others’) opinion of our local city leaders is so low that I almost believed that they were serious.

  3. Mike Caton

    This is the best explanation I’ve seen so far, although I hesitate to grant Dellums even the basic wiliness it would take to conceive this plan. I hope you’re right.

  4. Surfways

    Your analysis makes perfect sense. I think one factor for the uproar is that we have been betrayed or baffled, several times, by the decisions or plans that our city made in regards to safety:
    * closing the city jail
    * cutting the CSI team
    * misusing Measure Y funds
    * proposed another parcel tax to fund the police (not Measure Y)
    * the mayor’s safety plan called for a book club and a bucket of fried chicken for the folks that loiter on the corner nearest to you.
    * Dellums once said that he thought that residents didnt want more police – remember, this was said after the fact that Measure Y was approved.

  5. VivekB

    Ditto, god hope you’re right. The outrage is perhaps more telling of our fundamental distrust of city hall than anything else.

  6. Max Allstadt

    Yesterday David Simon, creator of The Wire, told Congress that they should allow newspapers to monopolize in order to survive, because “bloggers don’t go to City Council meetings.”

    Yesterday the local papers, including the MediaNews owned Trib, put out an incomplete and alarmist take on these potential police cuts.

    Today, we see what we’ve sen time and again in Oakland: our favorite blogger does better reporting than any of our papers. All the details in one place, in plain English.

    David Simon: stick that in yer pipe and smoke it.

  7. hedera

    V – another excellent analysis. I don’t know whether to be relieved that this is just a ploy to get the federal dollars, or appalled that this is how the federal stimulus package works. Or both.

  8. Mike d'Okla

    Max is right about David Simon. Although I appreciate Simon’s forthright opinions about difficult urban problems in Baltimore, he’s not familiar with the nature of problems in other cities. I don’t share his cynicism and pessimism.

    That said, Simon makes a good point about newspapers having given up the service of a higher journalism in exchange for short term profit. Greed doesn’t do well for democracy.

  9. Christopher

    @V – you should put banner ads on your blog so I can click them. :) Or negotiate a deal with the Oakland Tribune or SF Chronicle to syndicate your articles. Your blog is the most thorough source of Oakland news I read (though sometimes there is a lot of data to slog through).

    Bloggers do attend city council meetings. Do newspapers??

  10. Brian

    This is silly. Oakland shouldn’t be asking for money to _keep_ police.

    They should be asking for money to hire _more_ police.

    The OPD is woefully understaffed.

    As for the city bureaucracy? Sorry, most of them do little more than get in the way of Oakland residents and businesses.

    Cut cut cut cut cut. Then cut some more.

  11. Sussu

    There is something I have wondered about community-oriented policing that I am sure has been addressed somewhere, and I’d be very grateful if someone can point me to where: is there a provision in place anywhere to pay those police officers more who live in the communities they serve? It seems like Oakland cops all live somewhere else, and it can’t help in terms of understanding the different communities or feeling accountable to residents who live there.

    Sorry to be slightly off topic – I’ve been curious if this has been tried (in any city) and whether it worked, and maybe I’m missing a whole swathe of information.

  12. Patrick

    Hi Sussu – we’ve sort of talked about this before. The general consensus is that police typically do not live in the communities they serve, because it might create a problem if, say, the person they arrested ends up being their butcher at Safeway, or a neighbor. Personally, I think we should have a police force that lives in Oakland – for the reasons you state. With the money they earn they can afford to live in the hills, where they would rarely run into anyone they’ve arrested.

  13. hedera

    Oh, come on, Patrick – the police don’t live in Oakland because, even on their salaries, the police can’t AFFORD to live in Oakland. San Francisco has the same issue. Your points are all correct, but I think the economic issue trumps everything else.

  14. ConcernedOakFF

    The Officers can afford to live here. They cannot afford to live here and send their children to private schools, which is what any sane parent would do if given the choice.

    Especially if it means your child is going to school with kids whos parents you have arrested.

    I would never ever live in the same city I was a police officer. It’s really a moot point anyways, since none of this will happen, either the pay incentive to live here, the Officers moving here, or the schools improving….

  15. gem s.

    hedera: the Oakland police officer I met recently lived in San Francisco. The plural of Anecdote is not Data, I know, but I’m not sure I would make the assumption that as a general rule officers can’t afford to live in either Oakland or San Francisco. If their spouse also works, and they rent, it seems entirely possible.

  16. hedera

    I have to admit the point about the private schools is significant. And certainly anyone who can afford to live in S.F. can afford to live in Oakland. OK, I’m wrong about the economics. I do agree with Patrick that it would be a good thing for Oakland officers to live in the city, but maybe I’m just nostalgic for a past era.

  17. Patrick

    I manage to own a home and live in a very nice neighborhood of Oakland – without benefit of a spouse’s salary and at nearly $20,000 less per year than the starting salary of an Oakland police officer. It would be questionable, however, if I had to pay private school tuition.

  18. VivekB

    It wouldn’t be questionable at all – it’s just not possible. I currently pay ~$17K/year/kid, two kids, plus all the damn extras. (annual giving, charity, year-end gifts, etc), for kindergarten & elementary. That’s after taxes, so at a ( guessing at 33% between CA & Fed), you need $25K/year/kid gross. With 2 kids, it’s $51K, plus beforeschool/afterschool costs since you’ll likely need to have a spouse working to afford it, which means you can’t do pickup until after 5pm. Typically that adds about $300/month/kid (minimum), so at $700 post-tax * 10 months/year, you’re at another $12K, or $63K, just to educate your kids. And since the spouse is working, they can’t take summers off, so that’s another damn $2000/month/kid for summer camp, so now we’re up to $69K of income that is allocated towards kids education (same year, this doesn’t do squat about college). Why do people do this? Simple – some call it elitism & sheltering kids, I prefer to call it maximizing the value of your kids formative years while ensuring their basic protection.

    I’d go into details about the proof points around why this is a good investment and that 90% of parents who can afford it are already doing this, but i’m sure it’ll just resort to folks abusing me and calling me names, which is what happens every time I mention it.

    My point is this: Lay off the requirements for officers & firefighters & … living in Oakland, because there’s no way we’ll get enough officers with young kids to take those jobs. Or, the second a police officer/etc begins family planning, they’ll move out of Oakland. We’ll be cutting out a massive amount of the job pool.

  19. Sussu

    If anyone has any information about other cities, I would be curious to hear it. Do Brooklyn cops live in Brooklyn? Manhattan cops on Manhattan? DC? San Francisco? Baltimore?

    A cop friend who works in Narcotics (not in Oakland) says that in his line of work, it’s trickier living in the same neighborhood – but that he can think of other departments where it would not be an issue. He did live in the same city he worked in for many years, and I am not sure if his family’s recent move was due to work issues or something else entirely.

  20. Ralph

    Sussu, DC and, I believe, the Baltimore PD had programs that paid officers to live in some of the more hardscrabble neighborhoods. This was nearly 20 years ago. I can recall one or two DC officers taking the dept up on the offer, but I if I recall correctly those officers were from the neighborhood and wanted to be an example to the young ‘uns.

    From a pure numbers perspective an Oakland police officer can live in Oakland. I think others have made good arguments for why they wouldn’t.

    @VivekB, it seems to me that there are ways for a family to earn < $100K a year and send the kid(s) to private school. Am I missing something?

    @Max, not all bloggers are created equally – some don’t do the hard work to get the facts straight.

  21. VivekB

    Ralph – I only have a data point of 1, which is my kids school. 3 choices I can see:

    1) Grandparents pay
    2) Scholarship fund
    3) You bought your house >10 years ago, and only have a $1000 mortgage.

    1) Grandparents pay
    Self Explanatory

    2) Scholarship Fund
    We have a scholarship fund, and I know of families that are relatively close to $100K/year that get a decent amount of money from it.

    For us, it’s a catch-22; we can’t send the kids to private school unless the wife works or we get a scholarship. If the wife doesn’t work and we don’t get a scholarship, we’re screwed. So, what comes first – wife works fulltime and her entire paycheck just goes to private school, or she doesn’t work fulltime and we have a crapshoot every single year. Gambling with my kids education isn’t within my risk tolerance, so I made my choice.

    3. Cheap mortgage
    Assuming the $87K starting OPD salary, you have $7200/month gross, ~$4800/month net, to work with. A $350K mortgage at 6% is $2100, or 29% of your salary – the outer bounds of affordability in the newly rational rules. Assuming you have $90K in your bank account for a down payment, and $10K for closing costs, you can get a $440K house. With property taxes & insurance that’s ~$2800/month. That leaves $2K/month for everything else, including food/transportation/clothing/medical/etc.
    While that used to be a huge amount, i’m shocked at how expensive food is today, our family of four struggles to keep it below $1000/month for 3 meals(breakfast/lunch/dinner), and i’m not talking about eating out a lot. Plus my kids are young, I see my neighbors with the teenagers eating voracious amounts, and I shudder. Now you’re down to $1000/month for clothing/medical/transportation/etc. If you’re a cop or firefighter, I hope you don’t want a vacation or anything fun to take your mind off the daily “I wonder if today will be the day I die” that your job entails. $440K isn’t going to buy a whole lot of house in Oakland, especially if you have kids since you’ll need some room for them.

    All this assumes public school. For private school, let’s assume you self-restrain to 1 child, and find a catholic school/etc that’s subsidized by the church so it’s only $1k/month. You can do all the above, but the only place to cut corners is the mortgage, and the only way to do that is if you bought a house years ago.

  22. oakie

    As to where cops live and it’s affect on crime, this is as much a waste of time canard as the nonsense that the cause of our budget woes are Prop 13 (if you doubt that, check the city’s budget in 1978, before Prop 13, adjust for inflation and population changes, and see if we don’t have a much much larger budget now than then, even with Prop 13). In any case, as far as I know NYC made no effort to force cops to live anywhere in particular, and Bratton’s book about how the city managed to go from the single most dangerous city in America to the single safest makes no mention of it. It’s a total canard and if we really wanted to reduce our crime rate, we would stop wasting time on things that have no affect on crime rates and tackle the policing policy issues that are so politically incorrect here.

  23. Chris Vernon

    There is, of course, another choice – insane though it may be: send your kids to the remaining viable public schools, support them with your time and energy and a 10th of the cost of a private school education. Take the other 90 per cent and use it towards all sorts of wonderful enrichment experiences for you and your kids (or towards that big mortgage, if you so choose, or as necessary). Be glad that your child is gaining an incredible social education in that he/she can deal with people of all social and economic strata, and then send him to your/her/his pick of the best colleges and universities in the country that are all dying to admit successful ‘inner-city’ public school students. If you don’t believe me, look to see where OUSD kids are going to college on the OUSD website.

    If that’s insane, so be it. Fortunately there are still other insane parents out there doing this and their support helps to maintain this option for any other insane parents that follow.

    None of this is to in any way deny the myriad and daunting problems in the district (especially at the roughly 2/3 of the schools that are serving almost nothing but very disadvantaged families) or the frustrations of dealing with the central administration. But this is a viable option and many people of middle-class means are taking advantage of it – I would argue to the benefit of the whole city helping to create ‘a better Oakland’…a more equitable, democratic Oakland.

  24. VivekB

    I only need 1 story to illustrate my point, and how there’s several OUSD’ers who’ll agree with me but aren’t in a position to emulate me:

    My friends daughter has gone from being an excited montessori school pre-schooler to dreading going to school as there’s a 3rd grade female bully who likes to push 1st graders down, is the daughter of 2 alcoholic parents so they don’t help, and are belligerent when asked to keep their daughter in check. Furthermore, the victime was recently put in detention for defending herself (only via words). She used to be ahead of the curve, now she doesn’t want to be at or near school anymore. Her folks would pull her out in a heartbeat if they could afford it, and are now considering leaving Oakland as they see no other choice.

    The worst part is that the victim is now beginning to understand the ‘psychology of violence’ at a very young age. How predictable is it that when she’s in 3rd grade, she’ll resort to violence, because it’s a paradigm she’s familiar with, and doesn’t see any real world repercussions from those who practice it.

    If she looks anything like her mom when she’s older, she’ll be a very pretty teenager. And when she’s a teenager, she’ll continue on with that psychology of violence, but make it primarily mental (aka mean girls) rather than physical. Sure, she’s got exposure to all kinds of people. And right now she needs an intervention (at the age of 6) to avoid being sucked into that world.

    That’s at Chabot (in Rockridge), which is considered one of the better elementary schools in the city. I shudder to think what the other 2/3 are like.

    The extinguishing of even a single kids learning flame and being punished when the child stands up for herself using only words against a publicly recognized bully, means that many folks are willing to do what it takes to create a 2nd option as that gamble isn’t worth it.

    My kids may be sheltered, but they sure as hell won’t be contributing to the problems of violence that plague the city.

  25. Ralph

    Chris, seriously most of the OUSD college bound students are not going to schools of great note. Further, according to OUSD data only 32% of the students graduate with the requirements to enter a UC. call me crazy, but if I were a parent I would not send my child to a school where over 50% of the class has neither the desire nor inclination to pursue greatness. You could bet your bottom dollar that my child will be in a private school. If that meant I walked around with tape on the bottom of my shoes, I went without food so the kids could eat, I held together a broke car with spit and hope, then so be it. My kid’s future is not worth the gamble that is an OUSD education.

    What would really help create a better oakland – locking up the parents of the miscreants who find enjoyment in beating up a 1st grader, putting the child in protective services, locking up the ne’er-do-wells who commit crimes against decency (a Dinkins / Giuliani sweep of the quality of life criminals) and stop funding programs that don’t do a darn bit of good such as Head Start and 90% of the the Kids First bull.

  26. livegreen

    You cannot make generalizations over 1 case. Nor can you reverse apply stats from High Schools to all the kids in Middle and esp. Elementary schools. One of the interesting trends at OUSD is the increasing #’s of middle class parents willing to stick all the way through Elementary school and take a risk in Middle School.

    Of course this started in the elementary hills schools, but this should not discount the progress spreading into flatlands schools. Bella Vista and Cleveland are both good schools in transitional neighborhoods, and Lincoln is downtown. Brewer Middle School is now a solidly above average Middle School.

    Of course the big gap between the higher # of good Elementary vs. good Middle schools is reflective of dropping off points (from public to private). On the one hand that there are so few good Middle Schools (2, Brewer and Montera) vs. Elementary schools shows how far there is to go. But a few years ago it was Montera by itself so Brewer’s improvement means something positive (even if not enough). Claremont and Brette Hart show signs of also changing for the better, though it’s too early to be sure…

    Finally both Skyline and Oakland Tech have positive things going on. And IF the Brewer students can combine with positive community and NCPC involvement then Oakland High stands a chance as well.

    All is not lost on OUSD, esp. if there’s community, NCPC and C.C. support efforts…Including from parents of kids in private schools (or without any children). Because better OUSD schools means less crime in our neighborhoods and is worth both fighting for and contributing to.

    If you want to help create positive change in Oakland (instead of just pontificating about what the problems are or what others should do) seek out volunteer work with programs in and out of the schools that make a difference for kids. They are already out there and they need your help.

  27. Ralph

    livegreen, we should be honest with those stats; if the Asian students left any of those schools, the school’s performance would fall off a cliff. That being said because I do deal a lot with high school age students who are seriously behind grade level, I was not aware of how well some of the elem schools are doing.

  28. VivekB

    livegreen, i’ll give you the phone # of my friend. I’m sure she’d be relieved to know that it’s just her kid that has been screwed as a result of going to public school.

    And Oakland Tech? Are you psychotic? Every time I drive by there or Claremont, I have this overwhelming desire to shut down all public funding for OUSD. I drive by Claremont damn well near daily, and OT perhaps monthly, for years now. My wife used to walk by there daily with a stroller, and every time she made the mistake of doing so at 3pm-ish, she’d come back with horror stories.

    Every. Single. Time.

    I’m sure there’s great magnet programs inside the schools, but the fact that that kids still have to get physically inside the school. Plus, that we have to waste an OPD officer at Oakland Tech, or have OPD patrol near Claremont when school lets out is a testament to what the generalization should be.

    If someone else is willing to “take a risk in Middle School” with their kids future, more power to them. But, as Ralph put it better than I, many of us would prefer to walk around with tape holding together our shoes than take that risk. Life is hard enough without having unecessary hurdles put in your way.

    And, tying this back to the original post, a cops life is hard enough. They take the risk of being shot & killed daily, now people seriously expect to force them to take risks with their kids education?

  29. Christopher

    Oakland Tech was the school where two thugs robbed a classroom at gunpoint. Not your typical junior high school.

  30. dave o

    Cops living outside the city flat out doesn’t work. They come here from the burbs totally clueless. They don’t know who is dangerous and they don’t hesitate to dump huge disrespect on the locals, even the best of the local-community cultural types like Geoffrey Peet, Jimmy Ward, Zanaba, David at Oasis, and on-and-on-and-on. The cops don’t understand the local social norms and they try to apply their repressed bedroom community values to an extremely dynamic and creative ethnic culture. For that they are mostly detested by the working class and the local cultural people. The reason that the cops behave so shamelessly here, is that they know that at the end of the day to can flee to the suburbs and not suffer the blowback from their despicable actions. The answer is a largely volunteer force composed of high-minded community people who understand who the thugs are and who don’t want the communities undermined by jerks (either cops or local thugs). The locals will respect the teens and try to set them on the right course. The cops disrespect the teens, even the best ones, that try to get them to see themselves as criminals. I’ve seen this myself, and it makes Oakland even more dangerous. Let these milliary-occupation style cops stay in the burbs and repress people who welcome living like that, but let’s get some people who love and understand Oakland to do security here. And the fact that it takes most of the city’s budget to fund this dysfunctional kind of “security” proves that something ain’t working, any more that Bagdad or Gaza are working. Sure Oakland isn’t being clusterbombed but the mentality is a very similar.

  31. livegreen


    Re. Asian students you’re partially right, as it depends at which schools.

    Once again I’d prefer specifics because each school is different. As I mentioned there are more middle class students at all these schools from every racial background. And the African American kids are on average below their piers but scoring higher than at other schools. And such generalizations don’t capture the fact that some are doing just as well…

    Once again, its not just the Elem. It’s starting to head into Middle, although I agree it’s too early to tell whether the increased improvement at just one middle will carry over to others. But the Principal who did great work there is now in charge of 1/2 the Middle Schools in Oakland. So let’s see if the foundation that has been successful can be spread.

    BTW, I totally agree with you about the High Schools. All I’m saying is that the foundations of some good things exist at Skyline and OakTech (I think it was last school year that 4 OakTech grads went to MIT).

    Vivek, I didn’t say anything about your neighbors kid’s situation, so don’t pretend that I did.

    First I gave specific examples of which Middle Schools are doing well, and that was Brewer and Montera. These schools have their challenges and can slip up still. Montera I’ve heard through the grapevine has done some backpeddling recently. But until we know which way that’s taking the school, it’s still a good middle school.

    All I’m saying is one can’t generalize all negatives to all schools. There are positive things going on at some, they really do exist, and if you don’t want to acknowledge them it’s not because they’re not there. I gave specifics and you reply with generalizations based on driving by a school. Wow, that’s really deep.

    Secondly, I really think it’s uncalled for for you to call me names. It’s juvenile, it’s not nice, and it shows an inability to discuss the issues with someone who disagrees with you.

    I never said that Claremont was a good school. I said it was showing signs of changing for the better. Now do you want to know about that? Or you already know everything there is from last drive by?

    Finally, I totally understand that your neighbor must fret for the well being of her child. But there’s a difference between her situation and the situation of all kids who go to public schools. Once again you cannot take one example and generalize about all schools and all situations (it makes you sound biased).

    When we looked at our local public school one of our specific questions was about bullying and situations where kids might get picked on. The Principles at a few schools gave good answers. And if our kid ever experiences the type of situation your neighbor finds themselves in (which must be very difficult), we would do everything we could to take the school to task, and get our neighbors support in doing so.

    And if none of that worked we’d be out-of-there (either to another public school, a private school, or through the tunnel). I hope your neighbor gets through this difficult situation…

  32. Ralph

    No livegreen, I am not partially right; I am spot-on. Granted, I did not look at all school but except for Cleveland, the scores of the African Americans at the schools doing well is just barely above the citywide average. I think a low Asian score was around 850 (on a 1K pt scale)

    I think it was one O-High student, who went on to MIT.

    I hold out hope that the positive performance can be replicated, but history would indicate that the variables that make some schools successful have nothing to do with the school but with the family value and cultures. Check out No Excuses, Closing the Racial Gap, if you haven’t already.

  33. livegreen

    Ralph, It does depend which schools, and it is not true that “African Americans at the schools doing well is just barely above the citywide average”.

    Let’s look at a comparison bet. OUSD overall and the schools in the areas I was talking about (that feed into Brewer Middle, except for Lincoln which doesn’t and which has too few African American students to be counted):

    African-American 2008 API in:
    -OUSD: 609
    -Glenview Elem: 758
    -BellaVista Elem: 686
    -Cleveland Elem: 715
    -Crocker Highlds Elem: 761

    Edna Brewer Middle: 671
    Montera Middle: 685

    These are all above the citywide average. If you look at other “hills” schools and some “foothills” schools, the API for African American students are consistently rising even if they’re behind their white and asian counterparts. The adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” seems to apply, although a lot more needs to be done,
    esp. at the “jumping off points” after 4th Grade, then Middle School, and then again High School.

    Re. Oakland Tech students going to MIT, it was two years ago. Here’s a link:

  34. len raphael

    LG, what’s current situation at Claremont? Over the last 14 years it seems almost to mirror Oakland’s overall situation, falling back, getting betting, falling back and now?

    Has it had unusual principal turnover?

    -len raphael

  35. livegreen

    I don’t know much about Claremont, and one thing I’ll concede to Vivek is their scores are poor. However that said, it’s surrounded by good Elementary schools that feed into it (better than Brewer and as good or better than Montera).

    Why I said it’s showing signs of changing for the better is I’ve heard the School Site Counsel is looking at good programs to -Increase oversight, safety and mental health for students on-campus; -Work with “at risk” students who need focussed attention and who create a negative learning environment for other students.

    IF they are able to implement such programs it will be a big step for the school. Since they’ve already acknowledged that these problems need addressing they’re on the right track. Of course successful funding and implementation are the most important.

    It’s amazing to me that a school in the middle of Rockridge, surrounded by good feeder schools, has so many problems. I think any school looking to make major changes needs to find support in local community groups (NCPC and Neighborhood Assoc.), businesses, and esp. City Councilpeople if it wants to replicate the changes and introduce programs that will fuel this turnaround. Business and esp. Jane Brunner can help fund such programs, but only if they decide it’s important for their constituents and therefor themselves…

    If half the people that have shown an interest in the Rockridge Safeway show interest in Claremont Middle then they’ll be able to get those changes started.
    Of course that’s a big IF…

  36. Ralph

    livegreen, i don’t know if i would go so far as to say a rising tide lifts all boats. i also have a question as to your district API number. I have the API as 674 for the 2007-08 year. I can tell by looking at the scores that these kids come from better home lives where a premium is placed on education. Quite honestly, and I know I am on an island by myself here, I would think OUSD would be better off providing enrichment programs to those African-American at the high API schools than to the whole district.

    Curious what is the percentage of students in the feeder schools who actually attend Claremont?

    PS: As long as we are handing out MIT props, I had noted a total of 3 from 2007. Probably not an O-Tech guy/gal but I do want to acknowledge the success of OUSD even as I think it is failing a number of students. (The irony is not lost on me.)

  37. livegreen

    To be clear I meant where there IS a rising tide…

    The API of 674 is for all OUSD. 609 is for African-Americans.

    That’s a good question about Claremont, but the # of feeders going to there must be lower than Brewer or Montera or it would be improving. Claremont would also be a good place to offer enrichment programs so they could show the feeder schools the special efforts they’re making. Just that might help convince some of the high scoring API elementary students & parents to go there.

    They should supplement that with a business and Jane Brunner supported effort at fundraising for both the programs and facilities. That’s what other schools have done to help reach the next level. And they (esp. Jane Brunner) should be embarrassed by Claremont, again given where it’s located and the quality of the feeder schools.

    Yes, noted it was 3 and not 4. From what I understand O-Tech is divided into 3 or 4 smaller schools (like several of the High Schools are), and that probably has something to do with the disparities.

  38. Ralph

    now livegreen, don’t you think that the better number to use as a comparison is the district average. your comparison would imply that since they are doing better than the average african-american we should be happy. but as you and i both know in the real world we compete with everybody. so the takeaway is not how much better the cleveland af-am students are doing relative to the o-high af-ams but we need to close the gap with the asian-americans at Cleveland.

    about the only thing that would make me convince me to send my child to any middle school would be high number of high achieving students. if my kid tests in the 97th percentile, there is no way on god’s green earth that i am going to place them in a school with kids who place in the 20th percentile.

    i do love this discussion on education. quite frankly it is probably the one thing that if we got right would go a long way to making this a better oakland. because if we were completely honest, if we could educate our young people they would not be on the street and we would not need more cops. we would have children who have options. when i go into stores and restaurants, i am overcome with an eerie feeling that the students i work with could not obtain one of these jobs because they never learned the socialization skills to communicate with the public. without even a basic education what are your options

  39. livegreen

    Ralph, I didn’t say or imply that we should be “happy”. I said what I said:

    “One of the interesting trends at OUSD is the increasing #’s of middle class parents willing to stick all the way through Elementary school and take a risk in Middle School.”


    “Of course the big gap between the higher # of good Elementary vs. good Middle schools is reflective of dropping off points (from public to private). On the one hand that there are so few good Middle Schools (2, Brewer and Montera) vs. Elementary schools shows how far there is to go. But a few years ago it was Montera by itself so Brewer’s improvement means something positive (even if not enough).”

    “the African American kids are on average below their piers but scoring higher than at other schools.”

    I agree with you a lot more progress needs to be made, including closing the gaps between all students. In the meantime the scores are going up for all students in these better schools and I really don’t know how that’s a negative.
    As I’ve said the trend in the areas I’ve mentioned (and only in those areas) is “positive (even if not enough)”. Even while we acknowledge progress we need to make A LOT more.

    You might decide “there is no way on god’s green earth that i am going to place them in a school with kids who place in the 20th percentile” and all kids have already reached the percentile that you deem necessary. But that does not mean that other families need to do the same, esp. when they’re balancing the economic necessity with how good the school needs to be to go there.

    Obviously Brewer has made improvements and convinced increasing #’s of Middle Class families (with high API scoring students) because they ARE going there. (BTW, this is having a snowball effect as students from other high scoring Hills Elementary schools transfer away from Claremont, etc.).

    I also think that most schools in Oakland need to continue improving for ALL their students. So rather than repeat the negative with how poor OUSD schools are, let’s look where there are positive things to report and see if and how we can spread what’s working.

    I totally agree with you that “if we could educate our young people they would not be on the street and we would not need more cops”. This is one of the KEY reasons that neighborhood associations, NCPC’s, businesses and merchants, and families (with kids going to ANY school, or even no kids at all) need to consider how to support their local schools in some fashion. It will HELP lower crime in Oakland…

    Of course it needs to be combined with other factors, like more OPD (esp. Community Policing) and a comprehensive Economic Policy. But that’s a whole nother can of worms…

  40. Ralph

    livegreen, you did compare the african-american api scores of high performing schools to the avg african-americans api for the district. that was my point and it is a dishonest comparison.

    the answer is simple…fewer children having children, more pre-natal care, more books at home (greater emphasis and reward for book knowledge less emphasis on street /pop culture knowledge), academic enrichment programs during the summer and less liberal white guilt programs for poor black children. they wouldn’t send their own children to these programs so why do they think they are appropriate for disadvantaged black and brown kids.

    except for sterilizing children at birth to stop the cycle and taking children away from failing parents, the implementation is easy.

  41. livegreen

    Ralph, Showing how much higher the scores at these schools are is a dishonest comparison? Why, because it proves my point and disproves yours?

    As much as you’ve highlighted your disdain for OUSD and are always looking for the negative, the API scores of African American (and all the) students at these schools is WELL above the same at other schools, and above the average of all students in Oakland. Only if you’re looking for a negative would you say that’s bad.

    The scores and examples of good schools and schools making progress speak for themselves. Luckily the students and parents who go there know that, and have already decided to not let negative fear mongers ignorant of the facts deter them from actually making the changes you only talk and dream of.

    As it says on Calitics: “We remind voters the words of Bill Clinton: ‘If one candidate’s trying to scare you, and the other one’s trying to get you to think… if one candidate’s appealing to your fears, and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you’d better vote for the one who wants you to think and hope.’ ”

    To you, o candidate of fear, learn from the positive attributes and contributions parents have been making at the many improving schools in Oakland. Learn what works and emulate them and all Oakland will improve. It’s already happening whether you like it or not.

  42. Ralph

    livegreen, you are good atmanipulating facts to prove a point but you fail to understand that I am calling your comaprison dishonest because you are comparing the scores of african-americans to the african-american average. who cares about that comparison it is meaningless. i have been consistent that the only comparison that is meaningful is how are students relative to the district average. i would love for you to explain to me why you think comparing african-american scores to the average african-american score is meaningful.

    and if you read through the disc, you will see that. i have consistently given credit where credit is due. i am not looking for the negative. i am stating the facts.

    i am not trying to scare you and have even offered you a soln to solve the problem. truth of the matter is, you don’t need a magic pill to cure what ails OUSD schools. You change the culture at home, you change the culture in the school. it isn’t rocket science. there is a guy in Oakland who is doing just that. set and achieve goals and earn rewards.

    quite frankly, from all the positive i’ve said i don’t get where you think i am promoting fear. i offer solutions and you ignore me. you my friend have failed to acknowledge my greatness and wisdom.

    about the only other thing which goes thru mind, while i realize this discussion began as an offshoot to OPD, are we 3 the only ones who care about education.

  43. VivekB

    hey, i acknowledge ralph’s greatness & wisdom :-) I think we need VS to split all these comments into an “Open Thread on Education”.

    I think Ralph is spot-on, don’t bother comparing af-am’s in one school to another, because it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is how the school is compared to the district (& state & city) average, not just on API, but on SAT/other metrics. As Ralph said, in the real world they’ll compete with everybody.

    My kids spend 30 mins/day on homework. I’m teaching my 5 year old how to read, the 7 year old is in 2nd grade and already through mult/div/fractions, so i’m beginning to prep her on algebra. Of course, she doesn’t realize it’s algebra, i use words like “ok, i don’t know what 12 x 11 is, so let’s just say this bottlecap is the answer. Now, . Ok, that bottlecap, eww that’s dirty, so let’s just write the letter B down and pretend it’s the answer to the question”.

    My intention is to make sure my kid only tests in the 97th percentile if she has a bad day. In 12 years of school, i once tested out in the 98th percentile, other than that it was pretty simple to hit 99th percentile on only 1 hour/day of focused homework. I spent 2 hours/day watching TV, another few hours/day playing, so it was certainly a balanced childhood.

    Every single kid at my kids montessori school is required to do something similar. Imagine how much better Oakland would be if we could mandate that level of discipline at home. Of course, then my kids would have to do 1 hour/day to kick your kids butts :-)

    And THAT, my friends, is what the public schools and af-am’s really have to compete with. And that is why any half-measures are doing them a disservice, because it insinuates a target that is so low, all they’re really doing is preparing the next generation of janitors. Hopefully they’ll get city of Oakland jobs, so at least they’ll have a great pension after 35 years of mopping floors .