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Educators against teachers’ salary measure

on October 9, 2008


OCT. 9 — Oakland education leaders are joining in what some would consider a surprising fight: one against raising teacher salaries. They joined labor leaders and Assemblyman Sandré Swanson at a news conference today outside the state building in downtown Oakland to voice their opposition to Measure N, a parcel tax that would generate roughly $10 million a year for local schools.

Critics of the measure said they are objecting to some of the fine print: The plan would only fund salaries for teachers but not for other school employees like nurses and custodians. And 15 percent of revenues would go to charter schools, a provision critics said they see as a “blank check,” given the private oversight of those schools.

Furthermore, Swanson said, they are bothered that the State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell pushed the measure onto the ballot without seeking local input.

“We’re not denying that an influx of resources are needed — they are,” Swanson said. “But we can’t do that without input from all stakeholders in that community. Swanson said that he and O’Connell had agreed a year ago that local input was needed.

But O’Connell spokesperson Hilary McLean disagreed that the State Education Board had not sought local input. The ballot was not introduced by O’Connell, she said, but rather by the schools’ state-appointed administrator Vincent Matthews — a Bay Area resident and O’Connell’s Oakland representative. Matthews did meet with labor and education officials in the lead-up to the ballot’s proposal, she said, but those talks weren’t ultimately successful. “It was a team effort,” McLean said. “[But] at one point part of the team” — local labor and education groups—”changed their mind.”

McLean said Matthews’ intention with Measure N was to attract and retain quality teachers with higher salaries, while working to accelerate the payoff of California’s $100 million bailout of the school district following its bankruptcy in 2003.

But critics say that Measure N is unnecessary given that Oakland voters already approved a similar measure earlier this year. (In February, Oakland voters overwhelmingly approved Measure G, which stipulates a $195 parcel tax going toward Oakland Public Schools.)

Opponents of Measure N would like to see an amended version of the ballot in the future, one that not only benefits all public school employees while leaving out charter schools, but taxes properties proportionally. (A press release from the Alameda Labor Council claims that “community leaders” are developing a proposal for the 2010 ballot)

“I have a tiny house, and [developer] Shorenstein has all that property around Oakland,” Oakland Education Association President Betty Olson-Jones said, before pointing out that they would pay the same flat rate per parcel. “Even my fifth graders would say, ‘That’s not fair.”


  1. Jim Mordecai on October 12, 2008 at 10:18 am

    As an Oakland substitute teacher, and as an Oakland property owner, I oppose Measure N.

    Hopefully, Measure N will be defeated and a clean parcel tax proposal will be on the 2010 ballot minus both $18 million for corporate charter schools and property owners will be taxed proportionately.

    What this report didn’t cover was the possible motivation of the State Administrator Vincent Matthews in placing $18 million, 15% of the parcel tax, Measure N on the ballot. Oakland State Administrator Matthews was a former principal of Edison charter school in San Francisco. His boss, State Superintendent Jack O’Connell was voted charter school supporter of the year in 2008.

    At the last Oakland School Board/State Administrator meeting State Administrator Matthews said that his motivation for adding money for charter schools was “equity”.

    But, State Administrator was in role conflict in acting to place $18 million to charter schools as part of Measure N. The State is suppose to be restoring financial stability to Oakland, but passing Measure N with $18 million for successful charter schools becomes an $18 million dollar motivation for charter schools to set up shop in Oakland. Charter school growth cuts into the Oakland Public School enrollment and as students leave the budget has to be cut and ultimately schools closed. School Board meeting after meeting the point is made that declining enrollment continues to stress Oakland’s budget and loss to charter schools is a major factor. So on the one hand the State Administrator has a priority to restoring Oakland’s economic stability and with the other hand the State Administrator is destabilizing Oakland’s budget by creating a huge incentive to grow more charter schools.

    Although I disagree with State Administrator Matthews that his role should include a concern about equity of charter schools in requesting a parcel tax, there is no reason that he could not have separated the two requests for parcel tax money by keeping Measure N pure and requesting only money for raising Oakland teachers pay (pay increase is needed to be competitive) and putting to the tax payers a request for parcel tax money in a separate measure.

    Carefully reading Measure N will reveal that the money requested for Oakland teachers will go to raising teachers’ salaries but the money raised for charter schools will not necessarily go to charter teacher salaries. Each qualifying charter school as a “successful charter school” will get a portion of $1.8 million dollars a year for ten years to spend on its charter school program. Measure N does not make clear on how the charter schools will spend their windfall.

    Measure N is badly written and Oakland voters should vote No on Measure N.

    Jim Mordecai
    Campaigning for No on N

  2. Bankruptcy Attorney in Austin on July 14, 2009 at 11:37 pm

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