There has been a lot of chatter here in Oakland about public schools across the district potentially closing or merging in the near future. This potential occurrence stems from the district’s decline in enrollment which is projected to close over 20 schools in the next five years.
A group of Black and Latino parents who lead The Oakland REACH are proposing an “Opportunity Ticket” to the district. The Opportunity Ticket would provide the students impacted by the closures or merges to be able to select the schools that they want to attend throughout the district. The idea there is to desegregate the students attending the highest performing public schools in the district, which are in the wealthiest parts of the city. This would give our low income, black and brown students an opportunity to attend high quality public schools that they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to attend.
Choice is something that I will always advocate for, and I personally support the motivation and the outcomes that parents are demanding for when proposing this ticket. Any movement that is led by folks that are directly impacted by the inequities of current systems will move bigger mountains together, this group here seems to be doing just that.
However, as I was talking to a dear friend of mine, Anthony Wilson, who ran for Oakland Unified School District 6 seat just a month ago about the opportunity ticket, we couldn’t help but think deeper about the crisis in Oakland when it comes to public education.
What can be done to ensure that our neighborhood schools are excellent schools instead?
Many of these children will have to travel across town to get to these elite public schools in Oakland. Does the opportunity ticket demand sufficient resources for transportation for these children?
Will the teachers in these schools have the resources and programs necessary to teach our children? Will our children be given the resources they need to fully focus on their education? Many of them would be coming from low performing schools which have low expectations and a drastic change in rigor will mean that our children will need more support initially to ensure they are successful.
Now, I want to make it very clear that I am not against this proposition at all, and I actually support the bigger idea, which is providing students the chance to attend a high quality public school which EVERY CHILD DESERVES. But I can’t help but wonder if the district, the schools, teachers, parents and students would be ready for it? Thinking about a long term solution, how can we build excellent public schools in our local neighborhoods so that an opportunity ticket doesn’t have to be proposed to the district?
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