Oakland Unified School District Bond for School Repairs

Measure Y

Oakland Measure Y: Oakland Unified School District Bond for School Repairs

TL;DR: A tax on homeowners to repair Oakland’s crumbling school infrastructure.

Some Oakland school buildings are in terrible shape, from unsafe water to unsound structural integrity. Measure Y would fund projects prioritized according to the Board’s Facilities Master Plan; the measure singles out “safety [including hazardous material removal], class size reduction, and information technology needs.”

Projects are also prioritized in part according to how long they’d been planned but not funded; a number of items on the list were on a previous bond measure in 2012 but could not be completed.

What happens if Measure Y passes?

Seismic retrofits! Repairs, upgrades, and energy efficiency projects.

Proceeds from Measure Y may not be used for any other purpose, such as administrator or teacher salaries.

The city’s tax impact analysis of Measure Y estimates $50 per $100,000 of assessed valuation (so if your house is valued at half a mil, you might be chipping in $250 next year so kids can not die in an earthquake during the school day). OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammel reminds voters in a tax information statement accompanying the measure that actual tax rates may differ from the estimates.

How will Measure Y address existing racial disparities?

Kids of color in Oakland are more likely to attend public schools than their white peers are, so investing in public schools is an overall win for equity.

A history of environmental injustice has caused polluted air and contaminated soil in poorer neighborhoods of color in Oakland. Because OUSD has kept attendance zones more or less coincident with the neighborhoods in which kids live, schools with the worst environmental impacts serve primarily kids of color. Because Measure Y’s projects are prioritized by need, this means the most physically unsafe and unhealthy school environments will be addressed first.

McClymonds High School, the only OUSD-operated high school in District 3, “enrolls about 350 students in West Oakland and also houses the district’s adult education office. … In February, McClymonds was shut down after the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene was found in the campus groundwater. In March, preliminary tests showed that the chemical was not also present in the air, but the school remained closed for the rest of the semester because of the coronavirus outbreak.”

Oakland Unified School District has been attempting to use targeted universalism to improve educational outcomes for Black male students—the group in OUSD who are most at risk of not graduating—while simultaneously benefiting all students. If this measure passes, and the money raised is put into repair and retrofitting in accordance with the district’s policy of targeted universalism, it should make schools more habitable, particularly for students of color. However, as the full text of the measure indicates, “Inclusion of a project on the Bond Project List is not a guarantee that the project will be completed (regardless of whether bond funds are available).” Some repairs currently planned for McClymonds High School were originally scheduled to be handled via a 2012 bond measure but have not been completed. This measure could be implemented in a way that would redress existing inequities, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that it will.


Stepping back from “separate but equal” vibes. The disparity between schools in poorer neighborhoods of color and richer whiter neighborhoods reeks of separate-but-equal. Measure Y is a small step in giving all Oakland kids the support they need to succeed in life, instead of toxins and literal structural instability.