Friday, June 13, 2014

Oakland Voters to Decide Property Tax for High Schools

By Doug Oakley
Staff Writer
Bay Area News Group

OAKLAND -- A $120 a year property tax benefiting city high schools will go on the November ballot following a vote by the school board Wednesday night. 

The Oakland College and Career Readiness For All Fund, if approved by two-thirds of voters, will raise between $10 million and $12 million a year in attempt to increase the 66 percent graduation rate. 

The school board will vote on final language for the measure at its June 25 meeting. If approved, 90 percent of the money would go directly to high schools that apply for money to establish linked learning programs -- small learning groups that link students' study of a particular area with real-world job experience. Ten percent of the money would go toward administration. 

A poll of likely voters conducted for the school board in April showed the measure is likely to pass. 

Andy Nelson, deputy policy director for East Bay Asian Youth Center, said the school district needs the program. 

"We don't take this notion to go to the voters lightly," Nelson said during the meeting. "We do urge the district to put this on the ballot. We want wall-to-wall linked learning so every student can succeed." 

Interim Superintendent Gary Yee said the school district already has invested $2 million to $3 million a year building an infrastructure for linked learning programs. 

An April survey of 552 Oakland voters showed the measure gets a 73 percent pass if voters are asked for $120 a year. 

The last time the school district asked for an increase in taxes to increase teacher pay in 2008, it lost by 450 votes, partly because the teachers union did not support it. 

Teachers are not behind this measure either, said Oakland Education Association President Trish Gorham. The fact that charter high schools will get some of the money is an issue for teachers. 

"While we cannot commit to the parcel tax now, we will stay engaged," Gorham said. "Charter school involvement is a concern for many of our members. Implementation of this kind of program depends on teachers at the schools, and if they are not fully engaged and involved, it doesn't matter how much money you raise, it won't work." 

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