Oakland schools tax Measure N approved overwhelmingly

Ballots from Tuesday's elections included many 'yes' votes for Measure N, the school tax designed to help Oakland students better prepare for future jobs. Photo by Melina Tupa.

Ballots from Tuesday's elections included many 'yes' votes for Measure N, the school tax designed to help Oakland students better prepare for future jobs. Photo by Melina Tupa.

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) should receive approximately $12 to $13 million annually with the passage Tuesday of a ballot measure that faced little opposition by Oakland voters.

Measure N, a $120 per year parcel tax levied on Oakland properties, is intended to fund college and career readiness programs in Oakland high schools. The measure passed with 75 percent of Oakland voters, as of 11:45 a.m. on November 5, marking “yes.”

“I’ve been so inspired by the students we’ve been working with and the teachers,” said Marc Tafolla, policy director for Great Oakland (GO) Public Schools, the morning after the measure passed. “It’s a great opportunity for Oakland right now.”

Tafolla, working with the advocacy organization GO Public Schools along with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), the East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) and former OUSD superintendent Gary Yee to promote the measure, said he had “anxiety dreams” about whether the measure would pass.

At a party held at Lungomare in Jack London Square Tuesday night, Tafolla said people were still “a little nervous” about the measure’s chances of passing. The first results came in just after the polls closed at 8 p.m., Tafolla said, with just 15 percent of precincts reporting and 70.8 percent yes votes.

“I just didn’t know if it would pass,” Tafolla said, recalling that a similar schools-directed parcel tax on the 2010 ballot came within 400 to 500 votes of passing. Measure N requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass, or 66 percent.

The tax will go into affect July 1, 2015 and last for ten years, unless re-approved by voters. It will generate approximately $1,000 per student, according to Tafolla.

Jody London, Board of Education director for District 1, who attended the party at Lungomare on election night, said she felt good about the measure’s chances.

“There are a lot of yard signs in North Oakland,” London said. “You have to win in North Oakland to win an election in Oakland.”

College and career readiness programs, commonly referred to in California as “Linked Learning,” establish specialized academies in high schools that provide students with industry-specific training and internships.

The programs have been shown to increase graduation rates in Oakland to 84 percent, according to a letter written to OUSD parents by Superintendent Antwan Wilson. The graduation rate in OUSD was 62.6 percent for students not enrolled in a Linked Learning program.

Hezekiah Burton, 18, now a freshman at UC Berkeley, was enrolled in the Computer Science Academy at Skyline High School, where he learned computer skills and eventually interned with Comcast. In a recent interview with Oakland North, he said without the Computer Sciences Academy, he would have been “less engaged” and “less enthusiastic” in school. He had friends who weren’t performing well in school, he said, but once they enrolled in an academy, they performed better and “walked that stage with me at the end.”

Back at the party on election night, school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge said the adoption of Measure N would be a “welcoming gift for Antwan [Wilson].”

Hinton Hodge and the rest of the Board members voted unanimously in June to put the measure on the November ballot.

Now that the measure has apparently passed, Tafolla said, recruiting would begin to put together a commission to oversee the money generated from Measure N.

“This is an opportunity for Oakland, and we owe a responsibility to the community that this district executes this well,” Tafolla said.

Additional reporting by Laura Klivans.

2 Comments

  1. Teddy Jones

    If the student performance doesn’t improve, do taxpayers get a per student refund?

    • Theodore Grover

      The question is not if student performance increases, it is: will the right students’ performance increase?
      This measure covers a hole in the categorical funding the district redirected to support it’s general fund that was meant for at-risk students and adult education. The issue that I see is that the wording of the measure allows the district to direct funding in ways that may appear to be college and career ready, but serve only high performing students.
      I think that we need to ask the right questions that affect the community of Oakland where we need the most support.

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