In common enrollment who is “the other guy’s” kid?

Our current enrollment system is one of the most inequitable ways to assign schools.  Families with financial resources move to neighborhoods with good local schools and/or send their kids to private schools at middle or high.  Families with greater cultural capital and time can review and apply to the range of charters or look for an in district transfer, and families who have neither are general stuck in neighborhood schools of default.

Even without common enrollment—we already have an existing system that separates into choosers and losers.  The losers being those who generally don’t make a choice, or do it after the formal enrollment period and then get assigned to schools of default—schools others have not chosen, and that typically are lower performing.

Families want a better enrollment process, they don’t want to have to fill out a 15 different school applications, or be required to produce an ID before they can even approach the window at the enrollment office.  They actually don’t really care if it’s a district school or a charter—they want a good school.   And the most annoying thing about this is that the families who have the resources to choose are often the ones limiting choices for those who don’t.

Regular families get this, 73% of them support common enrollment—which is an amazing consensus in a generally skeptical city.

So it is jarring to hear an OUSD board member, Rosie Torres, critique common enrollment in today’s SF Chronicle, opining, “Why should I advertise for the other guy?”

I thought the role of the District was to help families get the best education for their children.  That every child in Oakland was one of Oakland’s kids whether they go to a district school or a charter.

And if you actually talk to the parents in the Flatlands, they are dissatisfied with their choices, they do see the process as opaque and confusing, and they know the system is rigged against them.  Us lawyers, and folks who can afford to move to high performing neighborhood schools don’t face those challenges, and apparently have forgotten about them.

The families are right, look at the glaring inequities in the recent CRPE study .  Oakland had some of the highest disparities nationally in the access to high quality schools.

Low income students in Oakland are 18.3 times more likely to be in the lowest scoring schools, and similar though less jarring numbers play out for Black and Latino students.

Let me repeat. Low income students in Oakland are 18.3 times more likely to be in the lowest scoring schools.

So I guess if folks don’t want common enrollment, how are they going to fix a system that cements inequality.  And for Director Torres, I guess I have the lingering question.  Who is “the other guy”, and why isn’t the most important thing making sure that underserved Oakland families have access to the best public schools available?

What do you think?

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