The numbers are in from the latest Chamber of Commerce survey on voter attitudes and despite all the special interest rancor you hear at Board meetings, the average voter in Oakland is pretty clear about what is wrong and where they want the focus—hint, it’s about quality and resources, not the type of public school.
What do Oakland Voters Care About?
Voters are clearly concerned about school resources and the effects of underfunding on teacher retention and program quality. Roughly 74% of voters identified those areas as top priorities. Discipline was dead last at 3% and the trio of “charters, privatization and closing schools” barely weighed in at 12%.
Here is the slide.
Quality is more important than the type of public school
Voters want a truce in the public school wars and for combatants on both sides to focus on quality. Interestingly, the folks who need charters the least, because they tend to have better neighborhood schools and private school options, White voters, are the most invested in the public school wars, While Black and Latinx families that tend to have the worst options are most supportive of a focus on quality.
Here is the slide.
And here is the breakout of voters by demographics.
A Solid Center and Paths Forward Together
IF our elected or future electeds are listening to the voters there are some clear paths forward. And amidst all the smoke and bluster of the board meetings and social media, we can and should be working together on some key issues around 1) increasing resources for schools and assuring they are spent wisely and 2) A greater focus on quality and expanding quality seats.
In practice this should mean that we are all marching together to increase revenue for schools, and holding ourselves accountable on how it is spent. We also need to continue the work of increasing the number of high-quality seats, and correspondingly, reducing the number of lower quality seats. While the work has been painful, OUSD has started some of these changes through its blueprint process, expanding some high performing schools like MetWest and CCPA and closing/merging a low performing one, ROOTS.
The average voter confirmed what most of us not stuck in some bubble of privilege know. We don’t have enough high quality schools here, particularly in the Flatlands, and most of us don’t have time to argue about governance models when children are being failed daily by both public school sectors.
The voters want us to focus on quality and not the pet projects of interest groups. For the sake of the families, I hope we listen.