Board Watch: March 13

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

  1. Citywide Plan – How do you restructure a district, reduce costs, and maximize quality for all students? This is the Superintendent’s plan to do it all.
  2. Budget Update – The contract has been negotiated, budget cuts have been made, and now there is a clearer picture of OUSD’s financial future.
  3. School Closures and the Community – School closures are hard. School closures without community input are even harder. This policy explores an improved approach.
  4. Charter Schools – A resolution that asks state-level policymakers to revisit charter school laws.

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

1st BIG THING: Citywide Plan (item # 19-0160)

The Citywide Plan is the Superintendent’s five-year strategic plan to ensure a high-quality school in every neighborhood: Community of Schools – City Wide Plan (2018-2023) (starts on pg. 4).

The plan addresses the district’s most pressing issues, including a review of district facilities that identifies both the number of necessary schools and how surplus properties might generate additional revenue for the district. The Citywide Plan also explores a more intentional relationship with Oakland’s charter schools, with a focus on improving the quality of all Oakland public schools and ensuring that charter schools enroll an equitable share of high-need student groups.

GO’s Perspective

This plan is a historic approach for Oakland to both address its challenges caused by limited resources and to move toward providing a quality education for students throughout the city. The plan addresses staffing, finances, buildings, supports, and a more clearly defined relationship with charter schools, all in the name of maximizing resources to improve outcomes for all students. We believe it is comprehensive, thoughtful, and rooted in our local context. For all of those reasons, we support the Superintendent and her staff in defining this ambitious plan.

2nd BIG THING: Budget Update (2nd Interim) (item #19-0353)

The good news is that OUSD’s bottom line is continuing to stabilize and the bad news is that unfortunately there will likely be more budget cuts in the coming years. The School Board’s decision to cut over $20M from their budget for next year means that the projected budget for 19-20 is stable, but there are still concerns about additional future cuts needed to address rising costs – the presentation highlights “budget pressures” in 2021-22 and potential cuts in 2022-23.

Details on GO’s analysis of the 2nd interim: click here

GO’s Perspective

The recent budget cuts increased financial stability for next year, but as costs continue to rise and revenue remains flat – over the next few years OUSD will continue to grapple with more necessary budget cuts.

GO will continue advocating for OUSD’s strategic central office re-design and smarter spending that maximizes the impact of every dollar spent. We have also heard from our network that you are interested in state-level advocacy to increase school funding. Learn more about efforts for voters to reform Prop 13 on the 2020 ballot in order to better fund schools  – sign up here to attend the event.

3rd BIG THING: Resolution on Improving Community Engagement for Proposed School Changes (item 19-0481)

OUSD is in their second year of identifying schools to be closed, merged, or expanded as part of their Blueprint for Quality Schools process. This policy asks for that the blueprint work to pause until August 2019 in order to seek more community input on the process to identify and support schools through transitions.

GO’s Perspective

OUSD’s plan to expand, consolidate and close schools is painful, but also necessary and filled with opportunity.

The public response to school changes this year makes clear that the district has fallen short in its attempts to engage impacted school communities and the community-at-large. The district must do more to ensure that that community members who are closest to the problem – particularly students, educators, and families – have a significant role in designing solutions. We appreciate the concrete steps that the policy takes toward the district’s commitment to empowering school communities and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Despite the district’s errors, we continue to be hopeful about the Blueprint for Quality Schools process as a part of the wider, more comprehensive Citywide Plan. We believe that our city has too many schools, without enough quality options accessible to working families of color. We believe that we must harness the innovative energy Oakland educators have historically used to create new schools – both district and charter – to both improve our existing schools and find ways to expand our city’s highest quality options to serve more students and families.  

4th BIG THING: Resolution on Charter School Expansion in Oakland Unified School District (item #19-0480)

This resolution reinforces the district’s desire for the state to take a “careful and comprehensive look at charter school policies”, which was already approved in January through OUSD’s legislative agenda. In addition to supporting changes to state policy, the resolution would also have the board “consider supporting a local pause on new charter schools and renewals which include an increase in enrollment or a grade level expansion for eight months.”

GO’s Perspective

We have been clear that equity issues do exist between district and charter schools. We also believe that California’s 25-year-old charter school law has issues that deserve our attention, including better ensuring transparency and equitable enrollment practices. But whether or not those changes occur, there’s more for the entire Oakland education community to do locally. The district’s Citywide Plan explicitly calls for the district to partner with the charter school community to collectively address our citywide problem: across both sectors, we have too many schools, without enough quality options serving our students effectively. We continue to believe that such a partnership – requiring both trust and a citywide vision for educational quality and equity – is the strongest path forward for our city, schools, and students.

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