Oakland residents debate proposed funding for charter schools

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On Wednesday night, concerned faculty and Oakland residents addressed the school board regarding which schools qualify to receive Measure G1 funding. Meanwhile, members of the school district’s Office of Equity presented their 2017-2018 work plan.

During the public hearing session, many community members filed to the podium to express concerns about Measure G1 funding, including whether or not charter schools would be eligible to receive the funding and how this would affect the education of children in those schools.

Voters passed Measure G1 in November, 2016, with the measure receiving 82.24 percent of the vote. Measure G1 funding serves as a tool to raise money for schools through a 12-year special parcel tax of $120. The original plan established by Oakland Unified School District was for charter schools to receive 28 percent of the funding, while district schools received 72 percent.

“Cox Academy is a community-based school in Oakland that serves Oakland students and families. There was no stipulation for which schools should receive these funds and I believe measure G1 funding should help all Oakland students. Please vote for all schools to receive these funds,” said David Norris, the principal of Cox Academy, an Oakland charter school.

“My family lives in Oakland. We are homeowners and taxpayers. We voted for Measure G1 funding to support all students and it is hard for me to explain to my two children—one who attends a public school and another who attends a charter school—as to why the other’s school’s education is prioritized over the other. Please don’t penalize Oakland students for choosing charter schools,” said Nancy Colleen.

But some speakers said they feel that Measure G1 funding should remain solely for district schools. “I do feel for some of these charter schools that are losing funding, because they do support Oakland families. But again, they are not public schools. They should really be digging in the pockets of those who are the head of the charter schools,” said Mike Hutchison, a graduate of the Oakland public school system.

During the meeting, the school board did not comment on Measure G1 funding. The board will vote on how the funds will be allocated between district schools and charter schools at the next meeting on October 11.

Later in the meeting, during the superintendent’s report, staffers from the Office of Equity introduced their new work plan. The goals of the department, stated in the presentation, are to provide each student with the tools needed to graduate and prepare for success in college, career and the community.

During the presentation, the board’s student director, Gema Quetzal, spoke on behalf of the Latino/a Student Achievement Community Task Force about reforming the history curriculum in all grade levels to include multicultural history. She said in many high schools, ethnic studies are a separate course, required for each student to take. The task force recommends combining ethnic studies and standard history courses.

“Our culture is a part of history,” Quetzal said. “We learn about European studies, but we also have achievements that have impacted the country. We should be more than an elective course.”

Asian Pacific Island Student Achievement (APISA), The African American Male Achievement (AAMA) and the African American Female Excellence (AAFE) directors also discussed their plans for student success.

“Children have to see themselves in this work. That true not only for African American and Latino children, but all children,” said Nzingha Dugas, the director of AAFE, a program created to accelerate the academic achievement in African American girls.

In other board business, Nana Xu, director of strategic policy and planning, and Charles Wilson, executive director of enrollment and registration management, presented this year’s summary of twentieth day enrollment, which is a physical count of student attendance. After the count, staffing decisions are modified to accommodate the number of students attending school. This year 302 more students were reported as enrolled in Oakland schools, compared to last year. In their report, Xu and Wilson attributed this year’s increase from last year to three main factors: an increase in the birth rate, the closure of both the Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts and Castlemont Primary Academy, and increasing newcomer population to the city.

The board also welcomed its newest student director, Enasia McElvain. She is a senior from McClymonds High School, and will help represent District 3.

“I am excited,” she said in a brief interview before leaving the meeting. “I just really want to represent McClymonds High School students’ voice the strongest. For a while, we weren’t represented.”

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