School board considers putting tax for career programs on fall ballot
on June 9, 2022
The Oakland Unified School District board is scheduled to vote June 22 on whether to put Measure N, which funds career pathways programs, on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The school board agreed at its Wednesday meeting to ask voters if they want to continue paying a $120 per-parcel tax to support Measure N, which Oakland voters approved in 2014 to be in effect for 10 years. The money, according to the OUSD website, is used for programs to reduce the dropout rate, provide high school students with real-world work opportunities, prepare students for college, and expand mental health, counseling, tutoring and job training services.
The board heard a presentation on the measure and took comments from several community members, all of whom spoke in favor of reauthorization.
Shrotriyee Jacque, a computer science teacher at Coliseum College Prep Academy, said Measure N makes it possible for Oakland students to learn skills to work in the tech industry — one of the Bay Area’s biggest industries — through CCPA’s computer science program.
“It is no secret that tech needs more diversity in their workforce,” Jacque said. “And it is up to us to start building that pipeline early. That’s what Measure N allows us to do.”
Partly because of Measure N, since the 2013-2014 school year, there has been an 11% decrease in the high school dropout rate and an almost 12% increase in the four-year graduation rate, according to OUSD data.
While most of the board spoke of the measure’s benefits, Director Mike Hutchinson pointed out that charter schools also have access to the funds.
“We need to lead with that, so we are being honest with the community that as a public school district, we are going to be doing a parcel tax and then allow some of those dollars to go to charter schools,” he said.
Hutchinson also suggested taking a second look at the amount of the tax.
“At a certain point, we can’t just tax, tax, tax our own community,” Hutchinson said, “especially when all of these dollars aren’t even going to OUSD.”
Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell echoed those sentiments, saying tax fatigue and lack of transparency were notable concerns. But she highlighted the timeliness of reauthorizing the measure.
“I do think it’s important for folks to understand what they are voting for, but I do think the time is now,” Johnson-Trammell said.
Low-income residents and seniors have been exempt from paying the tax.
If the measure is placed on the ballot and passed by Oakland voters, it would go into effect July 1, 2023.
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