Education in Oakland

Oakland: We Moved Here for the Schools

Posted by novometro on September 12, 2006

In 2003, I was a reporter for the Stockton Record in San Joaquin County. At that time, school districts in affordable housing boomtowns like Tracy and Ripon couldn’t build new schools fast enough to accomodate the flood of new students from the Bay Area. In hindsight , I know now that the giant sucking sound I was hearing from the other side of the Altamont Pass was the sound of demographic predictions in Oakland and other Bay Area school districts going down the drain.

It was only four years ago that Oakland Unified School District forecast elementary school enrollment for 2005 at 27,300 students. According to the California Department of Education, the actual number was 24,000. While the prediction for middle school enrollment was off by 2,000, high school forecasts were close to the actual 2005 enrollment of 13,000. Jeanne Gobalet, one half of the OUSD’s demographic team of Lapkoff and Gobalet, said the effects of the housing boom caught them by surprise. “Things looked very different then,” she says. “It’s amazing how quickly things can change in a district.”

It wasn’t complicated economics. Expensive housing drove people to cheaper cities, and they took their school age children with them. Ms. Gobalet also says that the negative publicity surrounding a rash of school closures in recent years caused more students to abandon the district. That’s probably true. Unlike in places like Tracy, you never hear anyone in Oakland say, “We moved here for the schools.”


One Response to “Oakland: We Moved Here for the Schools”

  1. I just posted a blog dissecting the problems with the “demographic” report shown to the school board last week. In a nutshell , the problems are: overly optimistic asumptions about the “yield” of students in market-rate developments, which are assumed to be five to fifty times what the actual yield is; completely flawed estimates of low-income housing units to be built, even if the city passes an inclusionary zoning ordinance; and no mention of the demographic fact that the Echo Boom is aging, and is now in high school and college. I am stunned that these obvious errors have received no mention in the press, as they are revealed by even a casual reading.

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