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Home / Blog / Beyond Wishful Thinking: The 10 Biggest Hoped-for News Stories on Oakland Education in the Next Decade

Beyond Wishful Thinking: The 10 Biggest Hoped-for News Stories on Oakland Education in the Next Decade

Our Voice      February, 2020     



I don’t have a crystal ball or a fairy godmother, but here’s a combination of what I think will happen and what I hope does happen in the next decade.

1. More $: More politically astute minds than me say that Schools and Communities First, the voter ballot initiative to raise more money for schools, faces an uphill battle. But I hope that the voters of our progressive state say “yes” in this coming November General Election. Same goes for the CA school facilities bond on the ballot this March 3, as well as the expected Oakland school bond and any possibly new education-focused parcel taxes. For way too long (since the passage of Prop. 13 in 1978), California has been in the bottom fifth among all states of funding for education – which is simply NOT acceptable for our children and our future. 

2. Disciplined financial management: More money doesn’t help if it’s poorly managed. OUSD must change decades-old patterns and implement the fiscal controls that FCMAT has repeatedly recommended. Our kids, not to mention us taxpayers, deserve sound fiscal stewardship.

3. Listening to families: Two new young organizations are poised to become more influential voices. The Oakland REACH, has created one of the largest grassroots networks of Black and Brown parents unified in their cause of “Making the powerless parent powerful” and have been advocating for a quality public education for their children. Equity Allies, which appeals to social-justice-oriented middle-class and affluent families (mostly white), are trying to walk the talk by sharing funds raised by resource-rich PTAs. Everyone says that they are all about students but more than any other group of adults in the system, families put their students first. Decision-makers are listening – and hopefully will continue to in the coming decade.    

4. Getting the basics right: The demands on schools have piled on for years – but families expect – rightfully – that if nothing else, their kids will learn to read in school. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for many kids for many years now. The 2020s can be the decade when we finally use research-backed methods to teach every child in the city how to read. Want to be a part of this? Join the just-launched Literacy for All campaign!

5. Social and Emotional Learning: Every educator knows that a student’s emotional state affects their learning. Every parent too. Researchers are studying it. Policy-makers are looking at it (e.g. the CA School Dashboard includes measures of school climate). There’s now some big money (e.g. Chan Zuckerberg, etc.) going to this area. So, I think we will really see some traction this decade! It’s not just touchy-feely; paying attention to students’ development of self-awareness, executive function and relationship skills (among other things) is essential to their academic growth too.

6. Early Childhood Education: The governor wants it. So does every family. Loads of research says that it matters. In the coming decade, although we might not get to free universal preschool, I expect more funding for more pre-K programs. At last. 

7. Pension reform: So unsexy, and yet catastrophic if we continue to ignore this. STRS and PERS, the state retirement systems for teachers and other school employees, are both underfunded and therefore require ever-increasing contributions by districts in order to build up their coffers. Remember all that increase in funding? Guess where it’s going (a lot of it anyway). Of course, teachers and other school staff deserve their retirement, so hopefully Sacramento gets serious about fixing this looming problem. 

8. TOC: At the end of the last decade, several researchers published findings about the positive impact of teachers of color. In the coming decade, I’m expecting that more organizations move beyond the basic “Diversity Equity and Inclusion” work to, as Aida Mariam of Decolonize Design puts it, “ Belonging, Dignity and Justice” in order to attract, retain and develop educators and leaders that reflect and affirm the backgrounds of our students.

9. Supt. Johnson-Trammell: I am definitely hoping that by 2029 we can look back and be grateful that Superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell not only survived the tumultuous time during the turn-of-the decade but thrived to become the longest serving Superintendent in the last 100 years[1]. We’ve written about the cost of leadership turnover for a complex system like OUSD, and having her steady and pragmatic hand would not only be a pleasant change, it would be ground-breaking and impactful for students and families. 

10. Coming together: It’s going to take all of us working together to build a new and better system to make the 2020s the decade when Oakland public education finally turns a corner for all kids. 

A call to action

Let’s not just relive the past decade – instead let’s take collective responsibility for all our Oakland public school children:

  • Focus our incredible combined talents on what will help students learn: good curriculum in the hands of well-trained teachers supported by capable school leaders; 
  • Reconfigure the system to give more kids access to the highest demand schools, and say goodbye to programs that don’t work; and
  • Pass multiple local and state funding measures this year and the years ahead to invest in our students.

Oakland is filled with amazing passionate people and mission-oriented organizations and we’re all working towards the same goals but need to be better coordinated. If you are reading this, I invite you to reach out, come meet with us, and talk about how we can do this together.

[1] From research by Carrie Chan for her CRUNCHED blog: https://cutt.ly/grb5xfO


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