There is a gaping hole in the Oakland enrollment debate and it is 17,000+ kids wide. While anti-charter activists argue against inclusion of charter schools in the Oakland Unified enrollment system, we are missing the forest through the trees, and have left behind 17,572 kids in the bramble.
Oakland has roughly 65,740 school aged children, 36,392 go to District schools and 11,776 go to charters, this leaves over 17,000 students unaccounted for.
Some say that the roughly 11,000 charter schools students are undermining the school district, and that increasing charter enrollment would further undermine the system. Overlooked in this are the 17,572 students who live in Oakland, are school aged, and don’t attend a public school (charter or district). This dwarfs that number in charters and is almost half the number of kids in district schools.
So what’s going on? Obviously some kids are in private schools—I did some research but could not find any solid numbers, some probably go to school out of district, but there are still a huge number of kids not in school.
So instead of squabbling over the existing pie, why don’t we expand it, and make a positive effort to identify and re-engage students. There are literally thousands of young people who are eligible, but not enrolled in schools.
These kids will have very few legitimate prospects and will likely suffer through a life, that in Oakland, is too often, nasty, brutish, and short.
And it doesn’t have to be this way.
Every child in Oakland should be a child that we care about and do our best to serve, whether in a district school, charter, private, or out of school. Contrary to some recent board statements, there should be no, “other guy’s kid”. There are only kids, and they should be our kids. And rather than squabbling about whether some marginal number of current district students might choose to attend charters (oh the horror), we should be recapturing students that aren’t in the schools at all.
And in a district marked by rancor and disagreements, I would hope that supporting these most vulnerable students would be something we can all agree on.
But I won’t hold my breath.