By Ken A. Epstein
It may seem a little difficult to understand why understand Oakland teachers are opposing a parcel tax measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would raise teachers’ pay by about $10 million a year.
But more than 100 members of the Oakland Education Association’s Representative Council voted last week unanimously, with one abstention, to oppose Measure N, which could provide teachers with as much as a 7 percent salary increase.
The measure was placed on the ballot in August at a specially called board meeting by State Administrator Vince Mathews and his boss, State Supt. Of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, over the objection of six of the board’s seven members.
The cost to local property owners would be $20 annually for 10 years. To pass, the measure needs to receive the support of two-thirds of the voters.
The purpose of the proposed tax is to support teachers, accelerate the repayment of the district’s $100 million loan from the state and to provide support for the charter schools in the district, according to Hilary McLean, O’Connell’s press secretary.
“There’s not consensus, but at the end of the day, (State Administrator) Mathews and Jack O’Connell felt that this made the most sense for the good of the district,” she said.
Many teachers are calling the initiative “Jack’s tax,” said OEA President Betty Olson-Jones. “This was done with complete lack of public input and accountability. As long as the district is state controlled, there is no guarantee that the money will be used for teacher salaries.”
Teachers’ main reasons for opposing the measure are that it provides funding for charter schools and that it has no funds for raises for clerks, custodians and other district employees, she said.
The measure would encourage more charters to start in Oakland, Olson-Jones said. “The district has already lost 8,000 student to charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run without oversight. ”
In addition, the tax is unfair because it would be the same for owners of large properties as for small property owners, she said.
Teachers’ union leaders and school board members had urged O’Connelll to postpone putting the measure on the ballot to allow for public input to modify the measure to better fit the needs and interests of people in Oakland.