Charter School in North Oakland Applying to Nearly Triple in Size

Yu Ming Charter School is applying to expand from its current 488 students to 1,400 (an additional 912 students, nearly tripling in size) over the next ten years. Please contact your Alameda County Board of Education Trustee to ask them to deny this application.

If approved, this will hurt Oakland Unified's enrollment and finances at a time when the district has been closing schools to try to become more financially stable. Currently, 42% of Yu Ming students live in Oakland, but even if that low percentage holds over time, 42% of 912 additional students is 383 students. Losing 383 students to Yu Ming would be a big hit for OUSD.

It would likely be more than that. OUSD just closed the Kaiser campus, which like Yu Ming attracts Oakland residents from all over the city. And OUSD has no schools in the Golden Gate/Santa Fe/Longfellow neighborhoods where Yu Ming is located. So an expanded Yu Ming is very likely to take even more students away from OUSD. Our district is trapped in a Catch-22 where the county insists that it improve its finances, but then approves charter petitions (such as EPIC Middle School last year) that impact its enrollment, which its income depends on.

If Yu Ming was offering a program which dramatically improved equity for students, that might change this story. But at Yu Ming, only 6% of students get special education services, compared to 14% in OUSD and 11% across the county. Like most charter schools in Oakland, Yu Ming has chosen not to participate in OUSD's Special Education Local Plan Area, which gives it a financial incentive to not fully serve students with high needs. There is a clear and detailed explanation of this issue in these pages from the 2017 Informing Equity report, which was co-sponsored by GO (so you know it is not biased against charter schools!).

The school also does not reflect Alameda County in other ways, with only 7% English language learners (compared to 20% county-wide) and 14% free or reduced lunch (compared to 44% county-wide). The school population is also only 6% African-American and 6% Latino, which is not reflective of the flatlands North Oakland neighborhoods where it is located nor of Alameda County as a whole. [See here and here for data.]

Yu Ming got its charter directly from the county, so it is not accountable to the Oakland school board at all, but to the little-known Alameda County Board of Education. If you don't know who your trustee is, please consult the map below, or look up your voter profile on the county website to be sure. The two Oakland trustees who are up for re-election next March are:


The premise of Oakland's 'Citywide Plan' was supposed to be that all schools, district and charter, recognized that there were too many student seats in Oakland, and that there needed to be more cooperation between the district and the charter sector to better plan for the future. But when a charter school applies for an increase like this, it puts the lie to this theory, since the district has no authority to intervene. This is the sort of action that fuels district-charter conflict and poisons our public policy process.

I strongly urge our county trustees to deny this application.

Thanks to Ann Swinburn from the California Teachers Association for providing the initial document that this post is based on. I did also verify all the data myself today.

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