Parents talk during a house party in Oakland's Melrose District.
This Tuesday evening the 12th of January is the fourth of what is turning out to be numerous parent-led house parties organized by OUSD Parents United, where other parents can learn about the idea of a common enrollment system in Oakland. Common enrollment systems do not exist anywhere in California, but Superintendent Wilson has proposed that OUSD adopt the first one in the state.
The proposed common enrollment system would be administered by OUSD staff, but would include charter school students along with OUSD students. OUSD Parents United believes that we need enrollment reform, but not common enrollment.
In other places where common enrollment systems have been adopted, like Newark NJ, it has led to the closure of many public schools, displacing families and staff. Though the Superintendent's staff and some of my fellow board members have acknowledged that this could be a consequence of adopting a common enrollment system, there has been no information provided to the board or the public regarding projections about how such a system could affect our schools and families, nor any plan for addressing the possible consequences of adopting a common enrollment system.
Parents object to OUSD's scarce funds being used to administer a system that will assign students to competing schools, thereby undermining the stability of our own schools, and they point out that there is no articulated plan to ensure that the families that most need better schools for their students are the ones who will be targeted for outreach under a new system.
This house party took place in Maxwell Park in my district.
One of the compelling arguments for a common enrollment system from my perspective is the idea that we could use such a system to prevent the illegal and unfair exclusion of special education students, English Language learner students, and students who are more challenging to serve as a result of discipline issues. These students are often discriminated against in admissions procedures and are often also targeted for school push-out (for an especially notorious case, check out this New York Times artlcle on Success Academy in New York's "Got to Go" list).
I believe strongly that all schools in Oakland need to play by the same rules (and that's the law), but there is no agreement in place between OUSD and charter schools that would actually address these exclusionary practices. The Superintendent has expressed interest in a district/charter "compact" that would do this, but it does not exist yet.
I am very pleased to see parents organizing around this issue, because parents have historically been an extremely positive force for improving Oakland schools, and because I believe that parent involvement is ultimately going to help us get a more fair enrollment system.
You can see the list of upcoming house parties on the calendar page on my web site, and please RSVP if you would like to attend one of them.