Three Quarters of Oakland Families want One Enrollment System, Why Is OUSD Changing That?

OUSD is embarking on a fundamental change to the way that families enroll in public schools.  One that will make it even more complicated, requiring families to go to two separate websites to apply to district schools and charter schools.  Before it makes a move, it should ask families what they want, because last time they did, when they set up the current system, 73% of families wanted a single system.  Check the survey.

And as far as I know they have done NO open community outreach on the current policy change. 

For a Board that says it listens to and represents “the community” this is a strange way to take its big first step.  By doing something that will affect every family applying to schools in Oakland, and not asking a single actual family how they would feel about it.

And I do get it, some board members think that this change will increase the district’s enrollment.  Exactly why they think this, I don’t know.  First as I have complained before, OUSD does a relatively bad job at enrollment now.  They require families to submit all of their paperwork when they apply, rather than when they actually enroll, which the charters do.  Many families just abort the OUSD enrollment process once they get to that barrier.  And despite my badgering them for years, nothing changes.

So now OUSD will create its own parallel platform, and run it competently-not likely.  And they will have a great marketing campaign that gets families to apply to a completely new website, that will, of course be competently built and competently managed.  All this amidst a budget crisis.

I bet you dollars to donuts that OUSD has a greater enrollment decline than the charters if they pass this. 

So this change is against the wishes of parents and will likely cost and hurt the district.  It should make for some good speechifying though, at least I guess that’s the calculation.

As a final note, while this change would make it more inconvenient for families.  It doesn’t even touch the real issues of the district.  That they have a lot of schools that neighborhood families don’t want to go to.  And this is not the District, it is the charters and the district.  23 Black students in all the public schools in Oakland, district and charter, were at a school that performed above the state average.  23 out of over 5,000 students.

And charter or district you have roughly a 1 in 5 chance of being able to read if you are Black in Oakland.  It’s slightly higher at charters than the district, but pathetic on either account.

In some ways our enrollment system has played a cruel joke on Black and Brown families.  By showing them a list of options, most of the ones the want to get into, they can’t, because of neighborhood and sibling preferences.  And even when we do get into the “top tier” schools we are often treated like trash there.  And I have not heard a word from the board about fixing the actual quality of our outcomes.  Much less actually creating or growing schools that meet the demands that parents have.

But no, rather than looking to the actual heart of the problem, this board will try to hide it under the rug.  It’s a bad look, and a bad first move, one whose primary cost will be paid by underserved families.

What do you think?

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