There is a lot of confusion about the process behind the effort to improve school enrollment in Oakland’s public schools.  And unfortunately, those misunderstandings threaten to distract from the real issue at stake: families need a better way to find and enroll in public schools – one that is equitable, transparent and accessible for all Oakland families.

So here is some clarification to help move past the distractions.

Educate78 is providing financial support to improve public school enrollment in Oakland – specifically, to help facilitate community engagement and access the technical and experiential expertise needed for this type of improvement.

We deeply believe this effort will only be successful if it is guided by the views and needs of the Oakland community.

We deeply believe this effort will only be successful if it is guided by the views and needs of the Oakland community. That is why we worked closely with Oakland Unified School District and other community partners to bring together more than 200 parents, teachers and school leaders, in 12 public forums, at locations all over the city.  These forums – which are still ongoing – were widely publicized, open to all and attended by both supporters and skeptics of the initiative to improve public school enrollment.  We also helped OUSD promote a public survey they created to get even more input, in which 77% of 450 respondents from across the city shared their belief that the way Oakland does public school enrollment should be updated or replaced.

We also think Oakland can learn a lot from other cities about planning and designing enrollment improvements.  We asked enrollment experts to share successes and challenges, in the hopes that Oakland can use what works, improve upon what does not, and create an enrollment approach that meets the needs of our unique city and the diverse families our public schools serve.

Educate78 provided financial support for this project because there was a need.  As we all know, OUSD faces tight budget constraints, which limit the district’s ability to conduct the community engagement and learning required to make this effort a winning solution for all Oakland families.  Educate78 is proud to help fill that gap in resources and we are disappointed that our support has contributed to the controversy of a project intended to improve the lives of Oakland families.  While many of our own donors are supportive of public charter schools, some are more excited about our work to support district school redesign efforts and community engagement.  Educate78 – like many Oakland families – is much less concerned with what types of public schools are serving our communities than we are with the results they are getting.

Educate78 – like many Oakland families – is much less concerned with what types of public schools are serving our communities than we are with the results they are getting.

The initiative to improve school enrollment is being driven by families’ needs – especially families who historically have not had any opportunity to share their enrollment experiences with the District.  It is not being driven by public charter schools – both public charters and district-run schools still have outstanding questions about how the new process will work. This initiative is not about moving more students to public charter schools.  Indeed, the highest performing public charter schools in Oakland already have full enrollment and waitlists.  This is about improving equity, transparency and access to public schools for all Oakland families.  Let’s keep that the focus.

Some people may continue to oppose OUSD’s plans to make public school enrollment better for political or ideological reasons, and that’s ok.  We are glad that our democracy allows civic discourse about the best path forward for our city.  We hope the ongoing community engagement sessions will fully air the diverse points of view on this topic, and we will continue to support the District to expand its outreach, so that any enrollment improvements are fully informed by the needs of Oakland’s diverse families.