Claremont parents hosted a great discussion on Measure Y last night, and asked me to write up an FAQ. So here goes!
1. Why is this bond needed?
Oakland has older school buildings than many other districts in California. They were not built with electrical systems or air filtering systems designed for modern-day needs.
There is no dedicated funding from the state to repair school buildings, so bonds are the system we have to generate the funds to make much needed repairs. If the state or federal government provides future funding for school construction, it will most likely be as it has been in the past, as matching funds to districts that have bond funds. So Measure Y has the potential to leverage additional state and federal funding in the future.
2. How will we avoid the cost overruns and other big issues that we saw with Measure J?
The District heard the community's concern with how funds for the last construction bond (Measure J) were spent, and took bold action to address those concerns.
In June, the School Board put in place much stronger oversight rules for the construction bond funds. Last month, they also pledged that these new rules would continue to apply after Measure Y is passed.
Andrea Dawson, chair of the Construction Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC), and a vocal critic of the Measure J issues, says the new oversight language is very strong, as strong as any other district's in California.
That's why she is supporting Measure Y, as are others who were skeptical at first until they saw the new rules put in place—including the Sierra Club, the Green Party, Parents United for Public Schools, and OEA.
3. How will the stronger oversight work?
Going forward, any major changes to individual projects, or changes to the bond project list, will come to the oversight committee, which is composed of citizen volunteers from the community, at the same time as they go to the Board.
So if the committee has concerns, they can make recommendations to the board or raise their concerns in the community as a whole before the Board votes.
In the past with Measure J, these kinds of changes sometimes were listed in the lengthy consent agenda, and were passed without any Board discussion. The oversight committee only found out about them once it was too late—hindsight rather than oversight.
This happened even more often under Superintendent Antwan Wilson, because at the time the Board also did not have a Facilities Committee, which now has been reinstated.
These two new processes have added much-needed transparency to our construction bond, which is what has brought so many members of the community around to supporting Measure Y.
If you want to get further into the weeds on this, the new oversight language is here (pp. 4-5).
4. Who else supports Measure Y?
Measure Y is also endorsed by the Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, the Trust for Public Land, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Faith in Action East Bay, Californians for Justice, GO Public Schools, the Alameda County Labor Council, Oakland Rising Action, Educators for Democratic Schools, SPUR, EBAYC, SEIU Local 1021, Sen. Nancy Skinner, Asm. Rob Bonta, Supervisor Keith Carson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Dan Kalb, Sheng Thao, Nikki Bas, and Loren Taylor, all 7 current school board members, several Oakland school PTAs, and many others.
As mentioned above, the Sierra Club, OEA, the Green Party, and Oakland Parents United for Public Schools also support Measure Y. Sorry to anybody I left out on this list.
5. Why is the district building new school buildings when it is closing schools?
Measure Y will not construct new school buildings, but repair and renovate existing schools. Some of the major projects on the list, like CCPA and Elmhurst, are schools that have increased enrollment due to school closures or consolidations.
Other major projects are at schools with healthy enrollment but very aged facilities, like Claremont, Roosevelt, Garfield, MLA, Skyline, Piedmont Avenue, and McClymonds—renovating these schools will keep enrollment strong or even attract more families to those schools.
6. Why do we need Measure Y if we pass Prop. 15?
If it passes, Prop. 15 will bring in much needed funding for day-to-day operations of schools, but will not pay for renovations to school buildings. It's estimated that Prop. 15 would bring $25 million a year to OUSD. While that will be a huge help for paying teachers and staff at our schools, it could not also pay for the repairs that Measure Y will fund, which is much larger: $735 million over the next 6 to 8 years.
Prop. 15 would help reduce the yearly cost of Measure Y to homeowners (estimated as a maximum of $60 per $100,000 of assessed home value): since it will increase assessed commercial property values in Oakland, and Measure Y is a fixed cost, that means residential owners will pay a slightly lower percentage towards Measure Y if Prop 15 passes.
7. Is one of the Measure Y projects an office building for OUSD central administration?
The named projects on the Measure Y list do not include a central administration office building. The current Board approved a plan to build offices at the Cole site in West Oakland, estimated at $50 million, but it is not in the official Measure Y language.
This project is very unpopular, and once a new Board is elected, it is very likely we will vote to overturn that decision, and instead direct the Superintendent to end the lease at 1000 Broadway and relocate staff to vacant space in existing school buildings such as McClymonds and Santa Fe.
One of the arguments for building at Cole was the need to have central administration in one place for collaboration, but of course the pandemic has undercut that argument, since people have learned to collaborate better remotely. The $50 million expense is not justified and those dollars should be spent instead on better air filtering systems at schools, as we can see that wildfires will continue to be an issue in coming years.
(There is a project on the Measure Y list for an alternative/career technical education center, to be built on the site of the former central office building at 1025 Second Ave. across the street from Laney College. That will serve young people who have struggled with high school or have graduated and need career opportunities or help transitioning to community college. It may include a few central services to families such as school registration, but will not be a central office site.)
8. Will Measure Y money go to charter schools?
Construction bond funds can only be used on district property. There are some charter schools that rent out district-owned sites, but the district of course will continue to own that property for the future. Charter schools also have access to other state funds for renovations through Prop. 51, so they are more likely to use those funds than Measure Y funding.