Op-Ed: What a Truly Equitable OUSD Enrollment System Would Look Like

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By Shanthi Gonzales,

Many of you have heard about the Superintendent’s proposal to create a common enrollment system that includes charter schools along with OUSD schools.

 

Though I believe there is a clear need for improvement in OUSD’s enrollment system, I am concerned about the Superintendent’s idea to include charter schools because:

1. The School Board has not received, despite repeated requests, any information about the projected impact on OUSD enrollment of including charter schools in our enrollment system.

 

The inclusion of charters is a threat to the stability of our schools’ enrollment, and may lead to layoffs and school closures, as it has done in other cities. I believe it is not responsible to our families or staff to proceed without this information.

 

The superintendent and members of the board who are in favor of this plan acknowledge that school closures and layoffs could result, but say that “We should focus on the kids need rather than the adults.”

 

What happens to our employees does affect students, though, because many of OUSD’s employees are the parents of OUSD students. An equitable system requires that we look at both the anticipated benefits and the costs for our families and employees.

 

  1. Our district is doing the right thing by investing significant resources into redesigning and strengthening our Intensive Support Schools, both financially and in staff and parent time.

 

I do not want to see us undermine that work by including these schools in an enrollment system that will force them to compete for students when they are still focused on improving the school academically.

 

Trust between school communities and OUSD is critical to our progress as a district, and is already in short supply.

 

Any district actions that serve to undermine the hard work of our school design teams would damage what little trust exists and hamper any future efforts to improve our schools. An equitable system would demonstrate respect and honor for the work of our families and our employees and give their work time to bear fruit.

 

  1. The superintendent says that being part of a common enrollment system will prevent discriminatory student recruitment and push-out of students who are more challenging to serve, but nothing about a common enrollment system will actually require charter schools to change these practices.

 

What is needed is an agreement between OUSD and the charter schools that governs these practices, and that is not in place yet.

 

It does not make sense to proceed with creating a common enrollment system until there is an agreement in place that prevents practices that are both unfair and illegal.

 

An equitable system is one in which all schools that use public funds are required to play by the same rules and no students can be excluded simply because are more challenging to serve.

 

  1. Most OUSD families live in low-income neighborhoods, which means that their neighborhood school is often a struggling school, but most of our families are not currently exercising their options under the enrollment system (not by the deadline anyway).

 

This is the real problem we should be trying address; how to ensure that families know about their options and how to participate.

However, there has been no indication from the Superintendent that he intends to provide additional resources to ensure that our lowest-income families are informed about how to use the system.

 

An equitable enrollment system is one in which the low-income families that most need a better school option are well-informed about their options and trained to exercise them. Otherwise we are just spending a lot of time and money to help the same families that have already figured out how to get the school they want for their children.

We need enrollment reform for sure, and there are some good ideas on the table, but the current proposal for a common enrollment system will not lead to the equitable system that our students and families need.

Many OUSD parents are hosting house parties in December and January, and inviting parents and community members to come and learn about what a Common Enrollment System would mean for OUSD families.

 

You can get more information about the house parties and common enrollment here: ousdparentsunited.wordpress.com

Also, if you would be interested in hosting a house party yourself, please contact [email protected]

The board is scheduled to vote on the Common Enrollment idea at the January 27 meeting, and I hope that many of you will attend and share your thoughts.

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