School Choice & Charters

Oakland Mayor Seeks Backing For Military Charter

By Catherine Gewertz — June 21, 2000 1 min read

Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, Calif., has responded to the school board’s rejection of his much-publicized plan to open a military charter school in the city by vowing to obtain the charter from the state, the county, or another district.

The school board split 5-5 on the charter vote June 7, a defeat for the measure since six votes are needed for passage on the 10-member board.

Mr. Brown, a former California governor who earlier this year won new powers in education from the city’s voters, lamented the board’s failure to approve his plan for an academically demanding military school that would be run by the National Guard.

He said last week that he still hopes to open the school as a day school for 7th graders in the fall and eventually expand it to a residential school for students in grades 7-12.

In an interview, he criticized the school board for resisting an innovative proposal in the face of a “very large number” of parents in Oakland who he said would like to send their children to such a school.

But for some board members, it was not the innovation that was troubling. It was the idea of a school run by the military.

Funding Questioned

Other board members, such as Jean Quan, were worried by details of the proposal. She said that its budget was unrealistic and that the school’s approach was not well enough defined. “The proposal wasn’t very well written,” Ms. Quan said last week. "[The mayor’s] idea keeps changing.”

After the defeat, Mr. Brown took his idea to Sheila Jordan, the superintendent for Alameda County, which has budgetary oversight of all the school districts in the county, including Oakland.

He asked Ms. Jordan to let the county’s school board consider granting the charter, but it was unclear last week whether the measure would be placed on the county board’s agenda in time for its June 27 meeting—the panel’s only meeting until August.

Ms. Jordan said she would conduct a “full and fair analysis” of the proposal and make a recommendation to the board. But she expressed concern that the proposed budget would rely too heavily on hoped-for funding.

“It’s built on shaky financial grounds,” she said. “You have to be able to say you have the money in hand or at least that it’s promised.”

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A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2000 edition of Education Week as Oakland Mayor Seeks Backing For Military Charter

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