Alison Yin for EdSource

Oakland Unified’s first-of-its kind parcel tax to fund college and career programs passed Tuesday by a wide margin.

The district’s Measure N, a $120-per-year parcel tax for schools, passed with 76 percent voting yes, according to unofficial election results. The measure required two-thirds approval to pass.

“It’s a fantastic win,” Oakland school board President David Kakishiba said Wednesday. “I think the concept of the measure really resonated with Oakland voters and I think it was part of an overall voting trend in Oakland.”

The measure is believed to be the first in California to specifically target career programs at high schools. The tax is expected to raise about $13 million a year to expand career pathways programs to all Oakland high schools. The programs, which blend academics with real-world work experience, show promise in increasing graduation and college-going rates, research suggests, and students who participate in the programs report feeling more engaged and active in school.

Oakland Unified officials see the measure as key to increasing graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates. The district’s overall graduation rate is 67 percent, but the graduation rate for students in pathway programs is 84 percent, according to a statement from district Superintendent Antwan Wilson.

A challenge during the campaign was to educate voters about career pathways, which follow a different high school model than many voters experienced, said Gary Yee, former Oakland schools interim superintendent who served as the chairman of the Measure N campaign.

“This was really unusual because it focused on an educational reform strategy and we weren’t sure that people would really understand what it means to actually imagine high schools being very, very different,” Yee said. “We were determined to use this as an opportunity to educate the community, so it was really a community education process as much as anything.”

Oakland’s measure was one of only seven school parcel taxes across California on Tuesday’s ballot and was the only new tax proposed. Other measures extended existing taxes. All the measures passed, according to data from the League of California Cities. A list of the measures can be found here.

In Oakland, officials will now focus on bringing the vision to fruition, Kakishiba said.

“I think the onus is on the Oakland Unified School District to wisely and strategically invest these dollars to ramp up career pathway programs in every single high school for every single student,” Kakishiba said. “… We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”

Editor-at-large John Fensterwald contributed to this report.


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