Educators against teachers’ salary measure
on October 9, 2008
By HENRY JONES
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.”
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