Two education-related ballot measures will be introduced to Oakland voters in November.
The first is Measure H, a renewal of an existing package tax for the Oakland Unified School District. Originally approved in 2014 as N-measurement, the college and career readiness initiative raises about $12 million each year for Oakland high schools. The programs it funds allow students to choose from a range of industries or “tracks” – such as engineering, healthcare, construction, arts and media, and more. – and to take courses and do an internship in these fields throughout their high school years.
While career paths, also known as academies, existed at Oakland high schools before Measure N, the package tax allowed programs to expand and serve more students.
The levy supports salaries for course coaches, college and career specialists, and internship coordinators, pays for field trips to colleges and job sites for specific courses, stipends for student internships, supplies and technology, and other costs.
Measure H would maintain the current tax amount of $120 per package for 14 years, expiring in 2037.
The original goal of Measure N was to increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and reduce disparities in course enrollment. Proponents of the measure also hoped it would better prepare students for college after high school and increase the number of students meeting the admission requirements for California state colleges.
“Every child in Oakland deserves the opportunity to follow their passion and have a career so they can come back and contribute to their community,” said Ayo Akatugba, science teacher and director of the green energy pathway at Skyline. High School, during a forum on Mesure H last week. “They all deserve this chance to succeed in life. And I believe that we should do everything we can to provide for them.
Zara Ahsan, a Skyline Green Energy Pathway Junior, spoke about the support she received while researching at UCSF during her summer internship this year. With the help of OUSD’s Explore College, Career & Community Options (ECCCO) program, Zara learned how to write a resume, communicate with her supervisors, track her hours of work and learn other job skills. which students may not be exposed to until the end of high school.
“I had a teacher from Skyline who watched me and the kids in my internship and made sure everything was okay,” Zara said. “I fear that if measure H does not pass, the next child who applies for this internship will go into this field and will not have any of these safety nets. These systems were able to make this a really great learning experience for me, and I hope other people will have the same experiences.
Since the district began receiving Measure N funding, OUSD’s graduation rate has increased from approximately 64% in 2015 to 72% in 2021. For Black students, the rate has increased from 61% to about 76%. Graduation rates for Latino students increased from 57% to 64%, and Pacific Islander students also increased their graduation rate from 54% to 72% in 2021. The overall percentage of students who drop out increased from 24 % in the 2014-2015 school year to approximately 13% in the 2020-2021 school year.
OUSD has also seen significant gains in the number of high school students enrolled in a career path. In 2015, about 50% of students in grades 10 to 12 were enrolled in a stream. In 2021, nearly 88% were. The percentage of low-income students, or those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, increased from 56% to 89%, a higher percentage than students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. reduced price (84%) .
Although the original tax, Measure N, does not expire until 2025, the school board voted to put Measure H on this year’s ballot so that if it does not pass, they will have the possibility to try again with a similar renewal measure. in 2024. Funding for the Parcel Tax is overseen by a civilian oversight committee that assesses each school’s spending plan to ensure it is linked to student outcomes.
With continued funding, district leaders hope to achieve 100 percent student participation in school pathways and build more middle-school and high-school pathways so students are exposed to programs earlier.
Measure H requires the approval of two-thirds of voters to pass.
Earlier this year, Oakland council members Dan Kalb and Treva Reid introduced a ballot measure that allow non-citizen parents to vote in OUSD school board elections.
In the United States, only adult citizens – those who were born here or have gone through the naturalization process – are allowed to vote in federal elections. This generally applies to local elections as well, but some municipalities have started to change their local laws to enfranchise more people. In Oakland, about 13,000 people who are undocumented or have legal residency but no citizenship could gain the right to vote in their district school board elections if this measure is passed. This would only apply to people who are the parent or legal guardian of a child.
“We vote for the education of our children. We’re not asking for anything fancy,” said Katya Caballero, mother of an elementary and high school student from Oakland. “We ask to have the same privilege as [others] have. Many people have this privilege and they don’t use it. We want it and we are not able to use it.
The S measure is part of a broader trend in Oakland and the Bay Area to gradually extend voting rights to traditionally excluded groups. In 2020, Oakland voters approved Measurement QQ, which allows the city council to amend the city charter to lower the voting age to 16 in school board races, a move the city of Berkeley also made in 2016 with the Y1 measure. In both of these cases, young people have yet to vote due to barriers to updating the county’s voting system. San Francisco voters approved a measure in 2018 allowing its noncitizen population to vote in school board races, and San Jose city leaders are considering a similar change.
Initiatives to enfranchise residents who are not citizens have recently come under scrutiny from some conservative groups who argue that such measures violate the California State Constitutionwhich states that adult citizens who live in the state can vote.
In July, a judge ruled that San Francisco’s measure was unconstitutional – a ruling that was stayed weeks later by an appeals court, allowing the measurement to hold for the next elections. The same groups too filed a lawsuit against Oakland in August to remove Measure S from the ballot, but an Alameda County judge later ruled the measure was allowed to go to voters.
The Oakland Unified School District has nearly 2,700 newcomer students or students who have immigrated to the United States in the past three years. Half of OUSD students speak a language other than English at home and a third of students are learning English.
Measure S has the support of community groups across Oakland, including GO Public Schools Advocates, Oakland Education Association, Oakland Literacy Coalition, Priority Africa Network and Education Trust West.
“This country currently has a large immigrant community that is growing and giving back here in the city of Oakland. We have people who come from El Salvador and Guatemala and contribute to the economy of this country,” said Reyna Facundo, a mother of four “As immigrant parents, we want our children to be people who give back to society.”
Measure S requires a simple majority to pass.