Opinion: Share Space with Charter Schools: Mandates and Responsibilities

OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell

The Board of Education’s Community of Schools Policy calls on us to reimagine our school system to ensure a quality school for all Oakland students. We know that all students deserve a clean and safe school in their neighborhood with ample space for academics, recreation, and vital programs that support social emotional learning.

Over the past few weeks, members of our community have expressed growing concerns, and in some cases hostility, around the possibility of students attending charter schools being housed on the same campus as students attending District-run schools due to Proposition 39 (Prop. 39).

I write to you today to dispel misperceptions about Prop. 39 and to clarify the District’s efforts moving forward. My team and I have made clear our position that the laws governing California charter schools need to be reformed in order to stop producing unintended and inequitable outcomes.

Prop. 39 is about district facilities. This law sees district facilities as resources to be used for educating California students regardless of whether they attend a district-run or charter school.

Prop. 39 mandates that districts make facilities available to eligible charter schools that submit a request for facilities. These facilities must be:

  • sufficient to accommodate all of the charter schools’ students;
  • reasonably equivalent to those found at other district schools/facilities; and
  • contiguous, furnished, and equipped, and shall remain the property of the school district.

Prop. 39 uses specific formulas for determining exactly how much space OUSD has available and interferes with the ability of OUSD and our district-run schools to make decisions for how available space is used.

In fact, OUSD has been the subject of a lawsuit since 2016 related to the District’s implementation of Prop. 39. This ongoing suit, among other things, alleges that the District has not met its legal obligations in providing reasonably equivalent space to charter schools.

We need to unite around a vision that allows for schools with enough space to meet the needs of every Oakland child, period.

With that in mind, I urge all of us–no matter your background–to model positive conflict resolution and respectful behavior. I understand the tensions around this issue and that we are in the last couple of weeks of a difficult school year. However, our children are watching how we handle ourselves when difficult issues arise. They all deserve positive models and safe spaces. Behaviors outside of this are unacceptable. All students should feel welcome on any campus.

I want to remind you that the conflicts that have arisen because of Prop. 39 are not unfamiliar in OUSD, or anywhere else. Sharing space is always challenging, as it is when two district-run schools share a campus, and even when schools share space with after school programs.

Sharing space is the immediate conflict, but these issues are rooted in the chronic underinvestment in education that is happening across the state. Even if we doubled education funding tomorrow, we would still have to figure out the best way to work together on behalf of all Oakland students.

Without that foundation, we will lose the unity we need to address the fundamental issues to truly realize quality across all schools.

We are currently planning to meet with state legislators to share with them our experiences with the current Prop. 39 law, and inform them that we are calling for change to help ensure that all students have the facilities they need and deserve.

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