The Alameda County Grand Jury Report Slams the OUSD School Board, But When Will GO Public Schools Take Responsibility?

The Alameda County Grand Jury issued its report last week detailing multiple failures of OUSD and laying the blame squarely on the elected School Board (1):

Finding1

The entire report is available online here. The report is not perfect, and it comes as no surprise as it confirms exactly what parents and teachers have been saying for years. Nonetheless, it is eye-opening in its detail of misspending and misdeeds, and we encourage everyone in OUSD to read it.

The report confirms everything that our Oakland teachers said when they were forced to strike to get a new contract: OUSD spends far more on administrators and consultants and far less on teachers and students than other districts (2).

blog2

The grand jury details many questionable fiscal and management practices, including:

  • Misprioritizing spending toward non-classroom staff and activities rather than classroom needs, including teachers
  • Failure to follow best practices in developing and sticking to budgets
  • A broken organizational culture of favoritism, nepotism and non-transparency
  • Poor stewardship of bond projects resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns, stalled projects and legal settlements and the misuse of funds on things like rent at the downtown Administrative offices
  • Failure to competitively bid contracts
  • General lack of urgency or understanding by the Board of the scope and importance of problems.

None of this comes as a surprise to parents and teachers because we have seen it and complained about it for years, but our concerns have fallen on the board’s deaf ears. WD0hId0mV4AAUCG1.jpg largee have had mid-year cuts, elimination of key student supports like the supper program and foster youth case managers, and mass layoffs of the classified staff that work in our schools, directly with kids. Yet, the grand jury found that OUSD spends $95 million more than the average of the 36 other Bay Area districts per year on everything EXCEPT the classroom (3).

Why is this GO Public Schools’ Responsibility? 

GO Public Schools Advocates (“GO”) has changed the local electoral landscape in Oakland since 2012 by flooding school board races with billionaire-contributed dollars (4), resulting in the election of 6 of our current 7 sitting board members (5). Over the last 4 electoral cycles, GO’s inappropriately named “Families and Educators for Public Education” has raised more than a million dollars from large donors including the California Charter School Association Advocates (“CCSAA”), NYC billionaire and former mayor Michael Bloomberg, San Francisco venture capitalist Arthur Rock and the Rogers family, former owners of Dreyer’s Ice Cream (6).

GO Super Pac major donors

Total contributed since 2012

Michael Bloomberg

$420,000

Rogers Family

$195,700

Arthur Rock

$147,000

CCSAA

$151,745

In total, close to 90% of all of GO’s Super Pac contributions came from large donors, which is what makes its name, “Families and Educators for Public Education” so particularly inapt. GO then spent nearly $850,000 to stack the board with their candidates.

For example, GO co-founder and District 7 Director James Harris was endorsed twice by GO, on whose behalf it spent more than $210,000 to get him elected and then re-elected (7). Mr Harris was quickly elevated to board leadership, spending 1 year as Vice President and 3 years as President, a time during which many of the irregularities and misspending outlined in the report occurred. As President, Director Harris worked closely with then superintendent Antwan Wilson to push GO’s Portfolio District agenda “1Oakland” that was formally adopted last year as Board Policy 6006.

Central to the Portfolio agenda is the closure of underfunded public schools as “underperforming” and the opening of charter schools, like trading stocks in a portfolio (8). Rather than strengthening and stabilizing public schools, the Portfolio Model/BP 6006, aka the Citywide Plan, is intended to create chaos through “churn”. That has been GO’s long game in underwriting school board candidates – and the grand jury report demonstrates that they have been extremely successful, using their candidates to undermine the fiscal and academic stability of OUSD schools with the aim of closing them, a process which we know is already underway. 11 charter schools have opened in Oakland since 2012, and up to 24 district schools are slated to close in the coming years. GO has gotten its money’s worth.

We must hold our OUSD Board and District officials responsible for their “astonishing” failure to do what is right for our children. We must also be very clear that by interfering in our local electoral process, GO and its billionaire backers have undermined our democracy and our public school system, and they will attempt to do it again in 2020. It is up to us to stop them.

______________________________________________

Footnotes:

(1) http://grandjury.acgov.org/grandjury-assets/docs/2018-2019/OUSD%20Broken%20Culture.FR-2.pdf page 48

(2) Ibid, page 36

(3) Grand Jury Report page 34

(4) Excellent reporting by Darwin Bond Graham  lays it out: https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/how-a-handful-of-pro-charter-billionaires-flooded-oaklands-school-board-elections-with-big-time-cash/Content?oid=5016336

(5) Roseann Torres, who was championed by GO in 2012, fell out of favor with them by refusing to vote in lockstep with their privatization agenda, and was fiercely and viciously opposed by GO in 2016 where they spent more than $120,000 to attempt to defeat her re-election. They were not successful.

(6) Dreyer’s Ice cream was sold by the Rogers family to Nestle for $3.2 billion in 2002

(7) In contrast, the teachers’ union (OEA) spent less than $6000 on Director Harris’ opponents.

(8) https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/PB-UrbanDecent-Saltman.pdf page 13


 

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