Budget Reductions Expected in 2020-21 + Lifting Student Voice

For more, click here for the full agenda.

Note: If this meeting is “willfully interrupted, the Board may move to the Committee Room as soon as practicable and resume the meeting. If the Board moves to the Committee Room, it will allow public comment–as necessary and if feasible–from the Great Room.” 

Before diving into the biggest item of tonight’s meeting, we wanted to take a moment to lift up the voice of student representative board members, Denilson Garibo and Mica Smith-Dahl, as they responded to the recent OUSD Board meeting disruptions and shared a powerful reminder to keep Oakland’s most marginalized families at the center when making tough decisions about our schools: “Our historically underserved communities have always been pushed aside.” Click the image to watch the full video.

Item #20-0180

In December, when the district presented their First Interim Report, they identified the need to make $21.5M in budget reductions to 2020-21 in order to stay fiscally solvent and maintain a 3% reserve (emergency fund). Of the $21.5M, $15.5M was identified in the First Interim Report and an additional $6M was estimated in likely new costs, like providing for five labor unions within OUSD for contracts that haven’t been settled and staffing the new Central Kitchen. It also did not include OUSD’s budget implications of the latest Governor’s Proposed Budget (released in January), which ended up shifting the budget. For example, OUSD is seeing a revenue decrease of $2.6M due to an estimated statutory COLA of 2.29% (OUSD had projected ~3%). 

Last week at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, the Superintendent proposed that the district makes a total of $21.5M budget expenditure reductions for the 2020-21 school year by eliminating and reallocating central office and school site positions, and other expenditures. The proposal also includes a list of the impact (offsets) for each of the departments. 

Today the district will be presenting this Budget Reduction/Prioritization proposal to the Board for additional feedback. The district will be taking community feedback via this survey (due 2/20) and an updated proposal is expected to be presented at the next school board meeting, 2/26. Below is a list of the district’s stakeholder engagement plan and timeline of this process:

As the district is facing hard decisions and cuts that will certainly impact students, we’re encouraged to see that they are still committed to maintaining the “rainy day fund” or reserve. OUSD’s current reserve level of 3% adheres to board policy and meets the minimum standard but still falls short of national best practices. You can watch this video to better understand why a reserve is necessary to ensure our students have stability. These proposed cuts – though painful – were anticipated and are being made with consideration of the trade-offs in mind.  

We are also encouraged to see that the district is centering decisions based on identified student outcome priorities, that they have a plan to gather feedback from various stakeholders, and they have named potential offsets/impact that can help make better-informed decisions. However, we would like to see additional transparency that can build community understanding by naming concrete trade-offs. For example, the district named that there could be an overall reduction of Assistant Principals, but what implications does this have for student achievement or educator support? This deeper context can help community stakeholders share more specific feedback and recommendations as they consider these tough decisions. 

To learn more context about the districts’ current financial situation, click here to see the district’s latest Budget FAQ

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