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Oakland Unified considering parcel tax to fund college, career readiness programs

One California school district is considering what may be a first-of-its-kind approach to pay for academy programs that prepare students for college and careers: ask voters to pick up some of the tab.

The Oakland Unified School District is studying the feasibility of placing a parcel tax on the November ballot to help fund efforts to expand so-called linked learning, or career pathways, programs at its high schools. The programs integrate academics with real-world work experience, such as internships and job shadowing, to keep students engaged in their studies and help them succeed after high school.

“I don’t know of any other place yet that has proposed such a thing (a parcel tax),” said David Stern, director of the College and Career Academy Support Networkat University of California, Berkeley, which offers resources for districts on how to create effective academy programs. “I personally think that’s a great idea to bring it to the voters. That really will put these (programs) on a solid footing and I think you could make a very good case to voters that this is worth paying extra money for.”

Any potential parcel tax is still in the exploratory phase, but Oakland officials say it has promise to help them reach their goal of expanding career pathway and academy programs to its 9,200 high school students. Officials see the programs as key to boosting low graduation rates and improving academic performance. About 25 percent of Oakland students dropped out of high school in 2011-12, according to the most recent data available from the state.

Read the full story on EdSource California.

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