Initiative offers Oakland students education boost, ballot measure pending

Oakland children could get a big boost to their education, if city and community leaders are successful in putting the Oakland Children’s Initiative on the November ballot.

On Wednesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the initiative with the support of educators, parents, and community leaders. She said it would help roughly 10,000 students in Oakland each year.

“In Oakland every year 2,200 babies are born as Medical eligible,” Schaaf said. “We need to lift these children up right away.”

The initiative is a $198 per parcel tax that would generate $30 million in revenue each year to support early childhood education and the Oakland Promise program. The Oakland Promise program, created two years ago, supports low income children by establishing a college savings accounts at birth and the program provides continued support through school and college.

“We want our children to obtain post-secondary credentials so they can be career ready and have life success,” Schaaf said.

Right now, only 15% of OUSD graduates are earning a college degree within six years of graduating high school, according to Schaaf. She also noted that only 43% of students entering Kindergarten are ready.

Leroy Gaines sees that first hand. He is the principal at Acorn Woodland Elementary where roughly 90% of students come from low-income families. He said a lot of time and resources are spent catching students up to grade level standards.

“Being in education, I'm going to support any funding that comes into education,” Gaines said. “Currently we are still underfunded and it creates a challenge to provide all of our students with what they need.”

Organizers need 35,000 signatures to put the initiative on the November ballot and plan to start collecting those signatures this weekend.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Oakland believes it has a great chance of being passed by voters.

“I've seen a number of initiatives form and the coalitions that got built behind them,” he said. “Rarely do you see one with this unanimous support. It's an exciting, unprecedented investment in our children here in Oakland which are our most important resource.”