Parents United has long been critical of the way that our Billionaire Bought Board has misspent Measure J dollars. Passed in 2012, Measure J provided $475 million in taxpayer money to improve OUSD school facilities. Coincidentally (or not), 2012 was also the first time GO Public Schools used its Political Action Committee (PAC) to funnel billionaire money into our previously low key school board races. We have previously posted on how that turned out.
As bad as this GO-bought board has been at managing the OUSD budget, they have been even more irresponsible about managing these bond funds. The Alameda Grand Jury in 2019 was very critical of the spending priorities and failed stewardship of taxpayer dollars:
Of the $475 million in Measure J, about one-third of those dollars went to pay for mistakes and cost overruns created by delays from shoddy contracting practices and the reprioritization of projects multiple times by this GO-bought board. One of those enormous reprioritizations happened after the Administration building at 1025 2nd Avenue was flooded in 2013. Here is a timeline of what this GO-backed school board did:
This timeline is a perfect distillation of the wasteful, ineffective and inappropriate governance of the hand-picked, Billionaire Backed, GO-chosen School Board, at a huge cost to Oakland’s children who so desperately need those facility upgrades.
Now, this same board has put a new $735 million Facilities Bond on the 2020 ballot as Measure Y. One of the major projects on the list for Measure Y is McClymonds High School. This historic west Oakland high school has recently had problems with lead in the drinking water and TCE in the groundwater, things that could have and should have been dealt with before, and which certainly would have been addressed had McClymonds not been pushed off the project list.
Given all of that, why vote Yes on Y? The Grand Jury identified multiple areas for improved operations in the Facilities Department which are now being implemented. After many years of failing to convene a Facilities committee of the school board, that committee is now meeting each month to provide transparency and to ensure that the new board, accountable to the families and students, not to GO, fully understands how the money is being spent and projects are proceeding. The Citizens Bond Oversight Committee has been given additional authorities to provide better oversight before decisions are made. They have the tools needed to fix the issues with past bonds. We must do our part to support the children of Oakland.
FIRST, we must elect a responsive, transparent and locally-accountable school board who will provide appropriate oversight, make decisions and stick to them, demand staff follow best practices, and ensure the timely completion of projects at the agreed upon costs. We must reject the Billionaire-funded GO candidates who will, like the previous GO-bought boards, carry out the Billionaire/GO agenda instead of doing what is best for the students of Oakland.
THEN, because we are rejecting the failed policies of GO and its billionaire backers, we can (and should!) vote YES on Measure Y to ensure that our children have safe, healthy and inviting facilities in which to thrive.