Oakland’s school board is considering putting a parcel tax on the November ballot to fund improvement in its high schools.
Although it’s made progress lowering the high school drop out rate and adding more rigor to its curriculum, Oakland Unified School District still sees more than 25 percent of high schoolers drop out. And not all of those who graduate are prepared for college or for starting a career. So the district wants to embark on a new approach to high school education.
It wants to bring to all schools a pedagogy called Linked Learning, in which students both pursue college preparatory academic subjects and work in internships at local employers in government, education, media, healthcare and business. Under the proposal in consideration, it would ask voters to approve a parcel tax of $150 per household to pay for this program and to raise teacher salaries at high schools to help in retaining and recruiting good teachers.
The district already offers some Linked Learning programs at most of its high schools, and the curriculum at two schools Life Academy and MetWest High School is built entirely around Linked Learning. The possible parcel tax would raise money to expand the program to all eight high schools in the district and made it available to all students.
The district commissioned a survey of a representative sample of voters, polling 500 people, and received a “yes” or “probably yes” response from 58 percent of them to the idea of a $150 a parcel tax.
It described the tax as something to fund “college and career readiness for all.”
A hypothetical “College and Career Readiness for All Act” would, according to a document shown to board members at their last meeting, raise money “to ensure all students graduate high school prepared to succeed in college and career by: integrating college and career preparatory classes and work-based learning opportunities; recruiting and retaining experienced, effective teachers; expanding mentoring, tutoring, counseling and support services to promote student success.”
A MetWest student, Ana, said “I think it would be super-beneficial. This is my first year at MetWest, after going to a regular high school. The whole internship thing has made me independent, having to take the bus, and having an internship is like having a job.” She is a teaching assistant to a third-grade class in Oakland.
The survey fount that 85 percent of those polled believe the schools need more funding. However, 63 percent also thought that OUSD did a poor job managing its budget and finances. Almost all those polled indicated they believe there is great need to improve high school graduation rates and career readiness.
The survey was done by the Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates public opinion research firm, whose northern California offices are in Oakland.
The firm found equal support for renewing Oakland Measure Y which is a $98 parcel tax for youth violence prevention measure, for spending on public safety and after-school programs. Measure Y collects some of its money from a surcharge on parking fees in commercial parking lots.
Another option under consideration is asking voters for a $98 per parcel tax for high school improvement in hopes that would combine with continuation of the Measure Y parcel tax to improve outcomes for Oakland youth.