Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I've been Branded.

After admitting a current crisis of faith to my family, they united together and decided that I should be branded: possibly with a capital "R" for Republican or maybe worse, a small "c" for Conservative. I've mockingly called myself a conservative before and I have written about how we get more stodgy (read: conservative) as we age, like it or not, but this is the first time I have felt like my politics are shifting because of my circumstances. (It may just be the first time I can remember- I have a bad short term memory and you know we block out things about ourselves that we want to forget!)

I love to brag about my love of paying taxes. It's like a party trick- sure, I voted for that tax increase! Yes, I love paying taxes- how else will we get x, y, z? I always fill my parking meter, as those fees go to vital services. I rail against the money from our federal taxes that is allocated toward war and defense and other pukey, conservative causes, but I pay up anyway. Basically, I'm a liberal. I willy-nilly check boxes to raise local taxes, knowing that Oakland is woefully lacking in quality basic public services like infrastructure, public safety and schools.

Until now. I purchased my house almost a year ago (I had lived here 2 years before that). When I was busy voting for increased taxes, I wasn't busy PAYING the taxes. Life as a renter had its problems, for sure, but paying property taxes wasn't one of them. Feeding parking meters is great, but it doesn't come close to the money that Oakland home owners- not all of us wealthy- pay in property taxes. (Note: I'm still feeding meters!)

This year in Oakland, we're voting for a couple of fairly substantial property taxes. The first is Measure Z, an extension of Measure Y. Measure Y is a parcel tax (and a parking surcharge tax) used to fund public safety stuff like fire and police, notably community policing and measures like ceasefire. It is sunsetting this year and Measure Z is the proposed renewal, for another ten years. $88/year, at $99.77/year, to do the same thing. Mostly everyone is for it, except for those who think that the City didn't do what they said they would do with Measure Y funds and, well, those who don't like to pay more taxes.

Then there's Measure N. EVERYONE is for Measure N. In the ballot where you look to see the opposition arguments, it says "there is no formal opposition to Measure N." All of the newspapers and people that matter (or at least have loud voices like the newspapers) support N. A coalition of politicians who don't even like each other very much phone banked together for Measure N. Measure N, "College and Career Readiness for All,"is too big to fail. Only, it is $120/year for 10 years, and honestly, I can't find any reason TO vote for it. (Senior citizens and those who qualify for "very low income" are exempt, but it's my understanding that this is on an opt-out basis, as in, you have to know that you don't have to pay, and then you have to be brave enough in this very liberal town to stand up against people like me who and this Measure with huge public support and say hey, I am opting out!) And this is where my crisis of faith started.

Oakland has a lot of problems and schools are one of them. I'm not going to go into the details- if you don't know them, they're easy to find. The thing is, we're already paying a lot of taxes, and the problems don't seem to be getting much better. (I put all the property taxes here.) As noted above, I don't mind paying taxes. But the more attention I pay to Oakland politics, the more I wonder where this money is going to. And we're already paying $195/year in a parcel tax to OUSD- this tax does not sunset- it's indefinite. You can read Measure G, passed in 2008, here. Basically, it adds to the normal taxes that we pay to do things like recruit teachers, shrink class size, buy books, etc. Like, normal things.

So what does Measure N do? If I read it right, it changes the education strategy to "Linked Learning." And I can't figure out why we need more taxes for that, since we're already paying a lot of taxes for a broken system. Here are my questions, which I have yet to find answers to anywhere. If this makes me a Republican, I am worried about my future. Jeb, you running??

  • Is Linked Learning the future of OUSD? 
    • If so, would it be possible to reorganize the existing org structure, mission statement, strategy and budget to do this? 
    • Why is new money needed- does a strategy shift require outside resources? 
    • What happens after the 10 years? 
  • Does Linked Learning have proven success? Outside OUSD? More importantly, inside OUSD?
    • Has a pilot study at OUSD been done? Longitudinal study?
    • What does "success" look like? Is data being used to measure success? 
  • Are stakeholders already involved in this project?
    • Linked Learning relies heavily on "work place learning" and career training. Have job sites already been identified and/or have local companies committed to placing hundreds or thousands of OUSD students? (It is my experience with the local charter "internship" school that this is done last minute with minimal supervision. Local nonprofits and small businesses are called on and then expected to find work out of goodwill.) 
    • Certain "career pathways" are more likely to be actually successful than others- ie: there are job sectors that are predicted to grow and jobs sectors (like library science!) that aren't. Has OUSD established which these are? Has OUSD figured out how to both encourage students to pursue their dreams (go librarians!) and be realistic in a career-readiness track? (ie: is this a realistic job preparation program where there are pathways to service jobs, healthcare jobs and law enforcement type jobs?)
  • How will OUSD avoid the career portion of Linked Learning becoming the worst form of internships on a mass scale? (No secret that I have some issues with internships.)
    • How will OUSD insure that students are provided with a meaningful learning experience in their workplace experiences?
    • How will OUSD insure that workers are not displaced with the unpaid labor provided by yearly students on career pathways?


thb said...

Grandpa, why are there more questions than answers...?

Granddaughter, Answers? We ain't got no answers. We don't need no answers. We don't have to show you any stinkin' answer!

Taxes = No Answers

Anonymous said...

I think you questions are excellent, especially now that I've read what Linked Learning is! DB
p.s. you DID pay taxes as a renter...it was imbedded in your rent :-)