OAKLAND — Oakland voters will decide in February whether to renew a parcel tax that funnels nearly $20 million a year into the city's public schools.

On Wednesday night the school district's state-appointed administrator moved to place the measure on the Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot. Unlike previous fundraising ballot measures, this one would make the tax permanent.

In an advisory vote, the school board unanimously recommended placing a second measure on the ballot asking for another $30 per parcel. But to the dismay of several board members, state administrator Vincent Matthews said he could not approve the second measure.

"We've never lost, and I want to keep this streak going," Matthews said.

Measure E, the existing voter-approved tax, costs property owners $195 per parcel. Roughly one-quarter of the funds it generated during the 2006-07 school year paid for smaller class sizes in the lower grades.

The money also went to art, music, school libraries, teacher health benefits, teacher recruitment and advanced placement courses, among other programs, according to a summary of expenditures provided by the school district.

Two-thirds of voters must approve a tax measure for it to pass.

Few families attended Wednesday's meeting, possibly because it was Halloween. But a number of charter school principals and advocates came to urge the district to share some of the money with the independently run public schools.


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"We believe charter schools deserve to be given a fair and equitable shake with their share of the funding," said Jenna Stauffer, founder of Lighthouse Community Charter School in downtown Oakland.

But David Kakishiba, board president, said sharing the money would amount to a $3million to $4 million cut to district school programs, a decision that would be "financially irresponsible."

The Oakland school district has a complicated relationship with the charter schools it authorizes. More than one in six public school children in Oakland attend one of the city's more than 30 charter schools. Meanwhile, the school district's enrollment is falling, causing its budget to shrink accordingly.

"While I hear the concerns of the charter school community, I first and foremost recognize the urgent needs of our district," Matthews said.

Contact Katy Murphy at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Join the parcel tax discussion on her Oakland schools blog, http://www.ibabuzz.

com/education.