By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, is part of the fight against the unlawful transfer of funds to Oakland charters.
CTA and members of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) have told state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell in no uncertain terms that he must rescind his "unlawful" demand for the Oakland Unified School District to transfer funds that would go to students attending 32 charter schools.
CTA President David A. Sanchez warned in a letter sent to O'Connell in March that should O'Connell decline to withdraw the demand, CTA and OEA will fight to ensure that the unlawful monetary transfers do not stand.
O'Connell demanded that the district transfer $450,000 to district charters — or $60 per student — based on the premise that charter schools are entitled to share in the proceeds from a parcel tax for public schools that was approved by Oakland voters in February 2008. However, Sanchez asserted that this premise is "misconceived," since the parcel tax — known as Measure G — was not intended to fund charter schools and was not described that way on the ballot.
In fact, a parcel tax sponsored by O'Connell that would have explicitly included charter schools — Measure N — was not approved by voters last fall.
Sanchez pointed out that Education Code section 47636(a) permits a charter school to negotiate with a district for a "share of operational funding" from parcel taxes, but does not otherwise provide for charter schools to share parcel tax funding. Furthermore, Sanchez wrote, "The charter schools in Oakland have entered into no such agreements with the district to share parcel tax proceeds."
"CTA believes the record and law is clear that the parcel taxes raised by the Oakland Unified School District belong to the Oakland Unified School District, and are to be distributed to — and only to — the public schools of the Oakland Unified School District," Sanchez wrote, "not siphoned off to schools run by private entities that the voters did not approve as funded by Measure G."
Charter schools are separate entities from the school districts that grant their charters. They have different governing boards and generally have the power to hire and fire their own staff, create their own curriculum and make their own rules. The school district does not receive the base revenue limit allocation for charter school students.
Within the Oakland Unified School District, which came under state control in 2003 and just moved toward local control, there has been a proliferation of charter schools. Charters now teach 18 percent of Oakland's students and are responsible for a significant enrollment drop in the district's traditional schools, says OEA President Betty Olson-Jones.
"Charter schools have drained students from traditional schools," says Olson-Jones. "So-called reforms have left our community torn and destabilized, with schools in primarily poor African American and Latino neighborhoods especially hard hit by school closures, reconstitutions and charter expansion. There is nothing equitable about turning our district over to charter school operators while draining our most needy schools of resources."