Board Watch: June 26, 2019

The last School Board meeting of the 18-19 school year takes place tonight. Here are the three big things on the agenda for this week’s Oakland School Board are:

  1. Finalizing the 2019-2020 budget, LCAP, and Blueprint Cohort 2 
  2. $175 million in funding for facilities work – the sale of unissued Measure J Bonds
  3. OUSD properties up for sale – the district approves 7-11 committee suggestions

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

1st BIG THING: Finalizing the 2019-2020 budget, LCAP, and Blueprint Cohort 2 (item #19-1167, 19-1242, 19-1449)

In the last two weeks, the Board heard presentations on the LCAP budget and recommendations, the 2019-2020 budget, and the recommendations for the Blueprint Cohort 2. This week, they will vote to adopt these three resolutions for the 2019-2020 school year. 

GO’s Perspective

GO believes that OUSD should be using a smarter spending (Academic Return on Investment) approach to budgeting, asking how impactful their investments are toward improving student achievement. This year’s LCAP summary is an important step in that direction. We are encouraged by this direction for OUSD and hope that they continue to invest in impact-driven decision-making throughout their budgeting process.

For the 2019-2020 budget, the headline is that there are more cuts looming in OUSD’s future. The district is projecting to overspend by $7M in 20-21, and $17M in 21-22. Major cuts will be needed to avoid bankruptcy and state takeover.

GO’s budget advocacy continues to demand that the school district:

  • Keep cuts as far away from students as possible
  • Redesign the central office, by engaging in transparent trade-off conversations about what the district may need to cut and how those decisions will be made
  • Implement “Smarter Spending” national best practices to reduce wasteful spending and ensure that every dollar is maximizing impact for students

The Blueprint Ad Hoc Committee has clearly helped district leaders add more transparency and community engagement to the process. These are two values that are core to our 1Oakland campaign and have been lifted up time and time again by the broader community.

The selection criteria for Blueprint cohorts have previously been confusing, and we believe that making the “guiding questions” for data considerations public is one clear step towards transparency. 

2nd BIG THING: $175 million in funding for facilities work (item #19-1413)

Measure J is a bond measure passed by Oakland voters in 2012 that authorizes the Oakland Unified School District to issue $475 million in bonds. Funding was spent to improve the quality of Oakland school facilities in order to:

  • Better prepare students for college and jobs
  • Upgrade science labs, classrooms, computers and technology
  • Improve student safety and security
  • Repair bathrooms, electrical systems, plumbing and sewer lines
  • Improve energy efficiency and earthquake safety

In April, the Board approved the sale of $175 million of OUSD’s unissued Measure J Bonds. While the district says this approval has no fiscal impact to OUSD, the sale of the unissued Bonds will give the district $175 million to spend on facilities projects over the next three years. 

GO’s Perspective: 

Stronger oversight of spending for bond measures is needed. OUSD needs to be transparent in where the $175 million will be spent in relation to facilities work. If OUSD would like to propose a facilities bond in 2020 to do much-needed facilities safety and modernization work for students, Oakland voters and taxpayers need to be assured that district leaders are making the most of every dollar to ensure safe, modern, accessible facilities for our students.

3rd BIG THING: OUSD properties up for sale (item #19-1417

The Board will vote to approve the first set of properties as part of the 7-11 Committee’s recommendations with guidance from existing Board Policy 7350 on Asset Management which indicates a preference for long term lease over a sale. OUSD owns a significant amount of property in Oakland and the committee will be asked to, “best leverage vacant, underutilized and surplus properties and utilize facility use agreements to strategically engage all Oakland public schools.” 

The first set of properties are all currently vacant and include the following:

  • Edwards Shands
  • Tilden CDC
  • Piedmont CDC
  • Webster CDC
  • Sankofa CDC

This slide is from the “7-11” Committee Limiting Consideration of Properties for Declaration As Surplus To Specific Sites Identified As First Phase Properties. presentation

GO’s Perspective

Underutilized buildings that are not maintained depreciate and become a financial liability for our district and potentially a health hazard for our students and employees. It is important that any decisions made to address OUSD’s current reality also take into consideration the long-term impact on all children in our city for years to come. 

OUSD’s property offers a tremendous opportunity for the district to address current revenue challenges and to align their decisions with the Citywide Plan. This includes ensuring that the Assets Management Board Policy 7350 guiding principles, including “Pursue long-term leases over sale of property,” are taken into consideration. We hope that OUSD will do it’s due diligence to figure out the best next steps for these properties.

Join the conversation about this school board meeting on Twitter using the hashtag #oaksbmtg

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