Oakland parent Jane Nylund tells the story of creeping privatization in her city. The Oakland School Board will vote tonight on whether to close another 10 schools. To understand the background, read this article.

She writes:

Lest we all forget, from six years ago, here was the plan: 50% of our kids into charter schools. https://capitalandmain.com/oaklands-charter-school-tipping-point-0531 And now, it looks like that plan is coming to fruition. You are following the privatization playbook to the letter.

When the well-paid accountants arrive and show a slide comparing OUSD to other districts of similar enrollments/SES, and make the simplistic assumption that OUSD has too many schools compared to the others and that we have to be just the same, here’s what you are really saying.

Lesson 1) High poverty children don’t deserve smaller schools and class sizes, anywhere in the state of California, unless it’s a charter.

Lesson 2) It isn’t acceptable for a high-needs district to appear to have it “better” than the others with smaller schools. Smaller schools are meant for wealthy people.

Lesson 3) Because we don’t have the political will to invest in the other comparison districts, we need to continue to disinvest in Oakland instead, thus creating “equity” at the bottom. Nothing new, we’ve been doing that for years. See Lesson #1.

Lesson 4) It’s okay to let Bill Gates experiment with small schools for our kids, until he becomes bored and pulls funding.

Here is the equivalent of that purported “savings” that really isn’t:

1) Recent HQ pay for two years. OUSD used to have 14 positions at $200K+; in 2020 they had 47.2) Lease at 1000 Broadway3) Cost of a new school site kitchen

So, by closing all these schools, OUSD can now have the cost equivalent of a kitchen. Maybe.
Turn this entire idea on its head. The continued austerity measures for high-poverty districts like Oakland are a clear message to these families that they don’t deserve a mix of schools, like, say, San Francisco.

Have you ever looked at the school mix in San Francisco, our neighbor across the bay? You should. I recently noted that they have a mix of 122 schools, give or take. They have 14% charter enrollment, and several comprehensive high schools. They also support a mix of much smaller schools from 100-500 kids each, of all types. They don’t use an “ideal” size. That doesn’t exist, and research bears that out, no matter how many presentations and how many consultants you pay to come up with an “ideal” number. So, if you are arguing that Oakland has too many schools, then you need to head over to SF and advise their board to also close schools. Oh, that’s right, they have wealthy families there. Don’t want to rock the boat. See Lesson #2

The accountants never look at San Francisco as a comparison district because of socio-economics, but SF still comes in at 57% FRPL. Clearly, San Francisco does something we don’t, even as elite San Franciscans are trying to shut down their elected school board. The obvious answer is that San Francisco is not a top-heavy, privatized, portfolio district.

No one in OUSD, FCMAT*, or local and state government has ever answered the obvious question: find me a comparison district in California, the same as ours, that has all the community services/pay/benefits/supports/enrichment as a result of having 40-50 schools. This nonsensical premise is what you are trying to sell us. What is a model district that you can reference that has successfully achieved and implemented this accounting miracle? Stockton, Sacramento, Long Beach? Where?

Answer: none of the above. You can’t find any high-needs district that has all of this because it supports a magical number of 40-50 schools. So you are asking us to just go along to get along with Stockton, Sacramento, and Long Beach, and many others. All that “savings” simply evaporates, along with enrollment, and the status quo remains. It is truly mind-blowing that you are promising community schools to magically appear, when there is no other district model in the state that supports this idea that you can close dozens of schools, and expect tax dollars to rain down upon school sites. The consultants will be falling all over themselves to be first in line for the money grab. It would be laughable if it wasn’t such a tragedy.

Go back to my point #1 in case you forgot about the entire argument about why this exercise isn’t about children. It isn’t about savings. It isn’t about more money for school sites. It isn’t about teacher pay. It’s about not having the guts to stand up to bullies like FCMAT and their state overlords.

It’s about taking the easy way out because of a “belief” system. It’s neat and tidy, and pencils out nicely. But once you put down those pencils, the disaster you have created for our communities will be irreparable and will change the fabric of the Oakland community forever. But John Fisher doesn’t care. The chaos will make it that much easier for the luxury A’s stadium to go in. But you already knew that.

*FCMAT=Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team