Board Watch: February 27th

Three big things on the agenda for this week’s Oakland School Board are:

  1. Vote  ~20M in budget cuts for next school year – OUSD could lose local control if they cannot balance their books for next year
  2. Potential Budget relief from Sacramento – State relief might be on the way, but there are unclear strings attached
  3. Vote on the “Opportunity Ticket”– Closing schools is contentious, taking care of students from closed schools shouldn’t be

For more than just three big things, click here for the full agenda.

1st BIG THING: Vote on ~20M in budget cuts for next school year (item #18-2727)

If OUSD does not reduce their spending the district risks losing local control and having an appointed trustee lead the district. The last time OUSD went into state receivership they received a $100M loan that is still being paid off at a rate of $6M/year.

The school board will vote on a budget reduction proposal aimed to address the district’s flat revenue and increasing costs including additional funds set aside for a teacher/staff raise. The current plan cuts $3M from schools, and reduces over 100 positions from the central office, some of which provide direct services to school sites.

OUSD produced FAQ about this reduction plan:

GO’s Perspective

Oakland joins other school districts across California struggling with flat revenue and increasing costs (The economy is booming. Why are so many California schools broke?).

Inadequate state funding and decades of fiscal mismanagement in OUSD have created a moment of crisis for Oakland students, and there is no easy way out.

Making these budget cuts will be hard, but failing to make them will be even harder. Should we choose not to make these cuts, control of our schools could lie not in the hands of Superintendent Johnson-Trammell and the school board, but an unelected bureaucrat from Sacramento. We believe that serves no one, particularly our students.


2nd BIG THING:  Potential Budget relief from Sacramento (AB1840) (item #19-0394)

OUSD’s updated Fiscal Vitality plan indicates all of the steps the district has taken to get their financial house in order, including updated financial systems, oversight, and reporting. The question is, will that be enough to get them state relief funding through AB1840? OUSD thinks so: “OUSD believes that it has taken all efforts to meet the requirements and considerations of AB1840 as evidenced by the updates and documentation provided within this report.”

GO’s Perspective

Rising costs, flat revenue, and contract negotiations all mean that OUSD will have a deficit next year if they do not make budget cuts. This Fall, a ray of hope came when AB1840 was passed, promising to cover up to 75% of OUSD’s deficit next year.

The catch? It is unclear exactly what OUSD had to do to receive full relief funding:

  1. It is unclear exactly what milestones OUSD needed to meet to receive this funding, and
  2. Budget relief “up to 75%” could mean anything from no support to millions of dollars. It is hard to plan a budget without knowing if you can actually count on this money.

AB1840 funding could still hit the district’s books in July – but we wouldn’t count on it. There are simply too many unknowns. It would be a mistake for OUSD to rely on this one-time funding right now without clearer signals from the county and state.


3rd BIG THING:  Opportunity Ticket”- (item #18-2725)

Closing schools is contentious, but taking care of the students at closed schools and offering them opportunities at better performing schools should not be. Families at closing schools will have, “enrollment priority in selecting a new school that they deem suitable for their children.”

The Opportunity Ticket Impact Analysis presentation can be found here.

GO’s Perspective

If the district is going to close schools, they must protect the students of closing schools by providing them with better opportunities. According to a Stanford CREDO study in 2017, the quality of the school a student ends up in after closure has a significant impact on their academic outcomes. We believe this policy will help ensure that students are actually placed in better schools.

To learn more about the community advocacy in favor of the opportunity ticket, get to know the parents of The Oakland Reach.


Thanks for reading and please let me know how I can keep improving GO’s Board Watch to make it a must-read for you every two weeks.

Until next time,

Nima Tahai
Director of Educator Leadership
GO Public Schools Oakland

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