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.

About The Author

Barbara Grady is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach her at barbara@oaklandlocal.com

10 Responses

  1. Anita Wilson

    Do you really believe that your hard earned tax money will go to the school children.
    The Oakland Unified School district is a joke. Ask me how I know and I will tell that I have first hand experience. The School district on Second Ave is a reflection of all the schools in Oakland. A large dilapidated building which is in need of repair for over twenty years.
    Home owners in Oakland please do not vote for this parcel tax. This would be a waste of your hard earned money. Use the money to get more police officers.

  2. R2D2II

    More funding is definitely needed in Oakland for both schools and improving public safety.

    The likelihood of voters approving such funding is, however, much more in doubt than suggested by the provided interpretation of the polling data. These funding laws require supermajority (2/3 of voters) support not simply majority (50% plus) support. 58% of those indicating yes or probably yes is not strong support.

    The underlying reason for voters’ hesitations about clearly-needed additional funding? Dismal past performance by OSUD and by Oakland elected officials, failure to articulate achievable goals and to manage performance to meet those goals. And last, absolute lack of transparency and leadership.

  3. The Boss

    If you want to get Hills voters to support this kind of thing, simply allocate 10% of the money to opening a magnet middle school and a magnet high school for high achievers. If the district did that, they could ask for far more than $150 per household because of the positive impact on home values that would follow creation of at least a couple strong schools.

  4. Don

    We are already paying a parcel tax Measure G.
    Enough already with all this taxation. I am tried of supporting failure.
    R2D2ll nailed in the second paragraph.

  5. Len Raphael

    Coordination and timing of this parcel tax will put in competition with the renewal of Measure Y; the tax needed to repay OUSD Measure J construction bonds of a year ago (http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/alm/meas/J/ ).

    is there a recent Peralta Community College parcel tax also?

    In another two years we’ll need the mother of all parcel taxes to cover the >100Mill annual City deficits.

    City and OUSD are separate legal entities but have to work together to show 2/3 of the likely (= affluent) voters that the money will benefit residents and not just contractors and City employees.

  6. Leslie L

    Would like to know funding statisitcs and results from previous bond measure and budget etc.

  7. James Miller

    I would certainly question whether the measure could get enough support if it focuses solely on high school ed. It needs to bring something to the elementary school level (maybe that’s the salary part).

  8. mark

    Please pass another parcel tax – paying the highest property tax rate in the Bay Area for the least services is not penalty enough. Please send more money to the same administration where accountability and over site is a joke.

    First give me a police department, city services (road maintenance), and a school system that works on the basics – reading writing and arithmetic – rather than each new fix it quick gimmick.

    By the way, pension obligations are just waiting to bankrupt Oakland in the next few years. The two bond measures that were supposed to fix this problem failed due to lack of financial acumen. Please give them more tax money to spend on this latest smoke and mirrors fix it quick approach.

  9. A


    I totally agree with you and the others. Every time Oakland wants to pass yet another parcel tax for services I have to just look at city’s history to know that it’s throwing away money. It’s like giving money to a junkie who promises to use the money to sober up and go back to school to better themselves.

    Not that the programs are bad per se, but just the lack of accountability and shoddy financial management of our local government makes me want to deny everything and anything. First prove to us that you can be even remotely responsible.

  10. CaliLibby

    Please support to get this initiative on the ballot FIRST. We aim to restore the funding allocated to education that was stolen from the state legislature. This is NOT a raise property taxes again request. Alameda county has had the largest fleecing of funds from education in the state per child.


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