Board Watch: June 5, 2019

The three big things on the agenda for this week’s Oakland School Board are:​

  1. OUSD explores more autonomy for schools – Should decisions about budgets, staffing, curriculum, and school schedules be made by the central office or by school communities?
  2. The City of Oakland gives OUSD $1.2M to restore programs – This one-time money is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
  3. OUSD’s special education program report – A look at the program and community recommendations for improvement.

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

1st BIG THING: OUSD explores more autonomy for district schools (item # 19-1030)

As part of the Superintendent’s Citywide Plan, Oakland Unified is currently exploring how to give greater autonomy (decision-making power) to district-run public schools. 

A group of OUSD teachers and principals are advocating for a clear framework of defined autonomies for school sites and clarity on the role of the central office.

This slide is from the Defined Autonomies Framework Presentation –  (6/5/19)

GO’s Perspective

Research shows that decisions being made by those who are closest to students is effective at improving academic outcomes. OUSD should be oriented in service of schools and embody a model that places communities, families, teachers, at the center of change. We believe a critical first step to doing this work well is having a clearly defined school quality framework that supports the district to assess the needs and strengths of schools throughout the city.

2nd BIG THING: The City of Oakland gives OUSD $1.2M to restore programs (item #19-0922)

In March, OUSD cut over $20M from their 2019-20 school year budget. The City of Oakland has stepped in and is giving the district $1.2M to help pay for programs that had been reduced. This includes funding for school libraries, restorative justice programs, and foster youth case managers.

GO’s Perspective

The good news is that for next year OUSD will be able to restore programs that were otherwise cut or significantly reduced. The bad news is because this is a “one-time” allocation from the City, when this $1.2M runs out after next year, OUSD is again left in the position of making $1.2M in cuts to these programs or other parts of their budget. In order for OUSD to have “structurally balanced budget,” national best practices in budgeting do not support using “one-time” grants to pay for ongoing expenses because it is not sustainable.

Moving forward, it will be critical that OUSD either:

  • Work with the City of Oakland to gain their commitment for an ongoing and indefinite financial contribution to these programs, or
  • Identify other places the district can make cuts to re-allocate ongoing funds to these programs

To learn more about why school districts across California are struggling with increasing expenses and flat revenue, click here.

3rd BIG THING: OUSD’s special education program report (item# 19-0990)

Every year, OUSD must report out on their Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).

About 1 in 5 students in OUSD is identified to have a dis/ability and an IEP, for a total of 6,781 total students. The cost to run the special education program has increased from $94M to $101M annually, (not including the cost of transportation). The Community Advisory Council is sharing with the school board over 20 recommendations for improvements to the goals and actions in the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan. This includes the request for a mandate that all general education teachers participate in professional development for inclusive practices and increased budget transparency for all dollars spent in the LCAP including accounting for all actions, services, and positions used to support the goals.

This slide is from the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Presentation included in materials for the 6/5/19 board meeting

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

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