I have my hands full enough with the City that I don’t even try to cover the schools, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in them. I wish there were more local education bloggers around. There’s certainly no shortage stuff to write about. Have you guys been following this fight with Jack O’Connell and the School Board? Talk about drama.
So back in November, Oakland voters rejected Measure N, which would have levied a $120/year parcel tax on Oakland homeowners. 85% of the money was supposed to go towards increasing OUSD teacher pay, and they other 15% would have gone to Oakland charter schools.
In February, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell sent a letter (PDF) to Vince Matthews, OUSD’s State Administrator, directing him to give $60 extra per student to all of Oakland’s charter schools “while a longer term plan is pursued” to address the funding inequity between the charter schools and OUSD schools (which exists because revenue from OUSD’s parcel taxes aren’t shared with the charter schools). Anyway, here’s O’Connell’s position:
Since the District supports all students who are served in Oakland public schools, including the charter and traditional schools, there is potentially an equity problem in this situation with regard to the eight thousand students served by charter schools in Oakland. It is particularly noteworthy that local students served by the public charter schools are by-and-large thriving academically in those settings.
Unsurprisingly, the union wasn’t thrilled with that, and Betty Olson-Jones, Oakland Education Association President, responded with an angry, paranoid, and completely insane letter to O’Connell, which you can read in full on the recently revived Novometro blog. Here’s a taste:
Your claim that this is a question of equity is particularly Orwellian and disturbing. In fact, your performance over the past 5 1/2 years as de facto dictator of the Oakland Unified School District makes a mockery of the concept of equity
Your talk of equity is a smokescreen for your real intention, which is to further destabilize the financial situation in the OUSD, continue to punish traditional schools by accusing them of failing and yet making it even more difficult for them to secure the resources they desperately need, and reward quasi-private charters who are exempt from democratic control.
County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan also objected, although her letter isn’t nearly as entertaining to read. The School Board is now suing O’Connell to stop the reallocation of the funds, but yesterday Judge Frank Roesch denied their request to temporarily stop the fund transfer on the grounds that they had not “made an adequate showing of irreparable harm” and had not “demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits based on uncertain standing.” Basically, since they don’t actually have control over their money, they have no legal authority to sue about their money.
So, I’m supportive of charter schools, but I think I’m with the School Board on this one. Well, maybe not their side because I’m particularly persuaded by their arguments, which basically amount to “We’re broke.” But if I understand O’Connell’s reasoning correctly, the root of the inequity he wants to correct is that charter schools don’t benefit from OUSD’s parcel taxes. I agree that the situation is unfair, but voters approve stupid taxes all the time, and if they approved taxes that go to OUSD but not to charter schools, well, that’s what they wanted, and you have to live with it. It’s not okay to move around the voter’s money just because you don’t agree with their decisions.