An Easy Fix for OUSD, Make Applying Easier

“Andres” is a newcomer.  He needs a great school, that supports his language and other needs.  Thankfully, we have just such a school in our neighborhood, Melrose Leadership Academy.  Unfortunately, he never applied, and it was OUSD’s unnecessarily intrusive and complex process that was the hurdle.  This is totally fixable, would lead to hundreds of more OUSD students, and the charters have already solved this problem.  Let me explain. 

I do a lot of informal enrollment counseling, sitting with my neighbors, or their family and sorting through schools on the Oakland Enrolls site.  I always encourage families to apply to many schools, both charter and district.  Get all the options that make sense and then make a choice.  Both public school systems are on the same software platform.  But “Andres” like probably half the families I work with only ended up applying to charters, even though Melrose was by far his best fit. 

The problem is the system. 

OUSD requires you to submit all your paperwork before you can press “send.”  The charters let you verify all of that after you press “send.”  It’s a simple difference but a psychologically and practically significant one.  Some families don’t have “paperwork” or have it handy.  They don’t realize there are workarounds, and they don’t want to ask.  Other families are legitimately reluctant to share or send information online. 

The folks I am helping usually say they will go back in and finish their application to OUSD.  I wonder whether they actually do.  Especially once they get a charter offer.  I have harassed OUSD on changing their policies here for years, and there is always some weak excuse.  This should be a priority, both to increase district enrollment and help families. 

But it never seems to get done.

Even worse, once the regular enrollment period ends, the only way OUSD applicants can historically submit applications is to go in live to the district offices.  In normal times, this can be very inconvenient and again, screens against our most challenged families.  During COVID this can be life threatening. 

Meanwhile, the charters continue to allow online applications all year. 

One of the original purposes of charters was to serve as laboratories of experimentation, where effective practices can be incorporated into district schools.  OUSD needs to take a lesson from the charters here and fix its enrollment rules.

It will help the district’s pocketbook and even more importantly, help Oakland’s families that need it most.

What do you think?

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