Charter schools and district schools are often pitted against one another, despite the fact, they serve basically the same families, face the same challenges, and basically have the same goals. And while there are competitive aspects, there is also real value to sharing and coordination.
Over the last couple of years OUSD and the Oakland charter sector have engaged in an ambitious attempt to better understand and coordinate between the traditional public schools and public charter schools—the Equity Pledge. The goal was to create a consistent way for parents to judge school quality, to simplify enrollment, share effective practices and other resources, as well as trying to generally coordinate better.
Despite the January 25th board meeting and update in the Superintendent’s report that looks forward to a Board approval in the next couple of months, there are real questions about where this work is going and whether the bulk of it will survive.
Some real benefits that we should not lose
As a skeptic, I have always had my doubts, but those were made material, when I saw the recent resignation of the Equity Pledge’s project director. And while progress was uneven in the last year, there was some real progress (see below).
Given the tendency for things to stagnate while we wait for the next (non-interim) superintendent. Without leadership, and someone pushing the cart, the Equity Pledge will likely stall as a larger effort, while potentially laying the fruit for future progress. And also delivering some tangible benefits to families and the knowledge base now.
Coordination makes sense, it is mostly the same kids and families and many who alternate between sectors. We should work together as much as we can to serve students and use resources efficiently.
It’s a much longer conversation. But I do hope that this work, or at least the most viable parts of it are approved in April as proposed—and that the interim superintendent and board will agree to adopt some of the low hanging fruit, even if deferring for greater study some of the trickier pieces.
Hard choices and bold leadership
These are tough times, with hard choices in OUSD. The easiest and least controversial thing to do is nothing. To defer the decisions, defer the debts, and further defer the futures of so many young people. Because those deferments gather interest. And somewhere down the line, believe me, someone is going to pay, and pay more.
In any event, here is a look at some of the Equity Pledge work and planned work from the Superintendent’s report. I believe it was all grant funded, it certainly seems worth continuing at least in parts, though politics often trumps logic.