Budget Matters: Overview of OUSD’s Proposal

These are critically important conversations and decisions. It’s also important to highlight that these are two distinct conversations- one about attempting to save money this year for desired outcomes, and a second about shifting money to align to new priorities next year. Naturally, how we manage this year’s budget will have implications on the amount of resources we can plan with for next year.

Sunday evening, the Oakland Unified School District released a presentation on its 2017-2018 budget for the Board’s consideration. The presentation (1) gives some history and background for the current issues; (2) lays out the recommendations for the current school year and next; and (3) has an appendix with additional budget information. More information can be found in the District’s frequently asked questions document.

We are working as fast as we can to provide you with a deeper analysis and understanding of what is at stake and how we believe the district can get to the best budget possible for all students and schools. In the meantime, we wanted to offer some quick highlights and guiding principles:

  • This year:  Attempting to Save Money in 2016-17. The district is proposing limitations on school and central office discretionary unrestricted budgets (funds for supplies, new contracts for services and new personnel) in order to re-build a reserve for economic uncertainty and prepare for unanticipated expenses.
    • These proposed adjustments are a reaction to program expense overruns in the 2015-16 year’s budget.
    • Last year, the district used 1% of its 3% reserve to cover expenses in SPED, Early Childhood Education, and Food Services.  It is hoping to use savings this year to restore the reserve to at least the Board mandated 3% or perhaps 4%.
    • This year, the district enrolled 426 students less than anticipated, leading to $4.4 million shortfall in anticipated budgets. The district chose not to reduce its teaching force in a corresponding way.
    • Unrestricted budgets currently have approximately $20 million in unspent dollars.
    • Of that money, the District hopes to save $8-$11 million by placing limitations on the use of these funds through the end of this school year.
    • Principals and school sites were made aware of these intentions in the past week.
  • Next Year:  Shifting Money to Align to New Priorities in 2017-18. For the coming 2017-18 school year, the district staff is proposing $21.6 million in budget reductions in some areas to fund a set of other priorities.
    • To be clear, this is not a shortfall. This is a discussion about reallocating anticipated resources to better align with strategic priorities. We are projected to receive approximately $10 million in new funding of which $6.5 million will go directly to salaries per our contracts.
    • Half of those proposed budget reallocations will come from school site budgets (e.g., fewer assistant principals, and school consolidations – see page 31) and half will come from the central office (e.g. cutting $5.1 million from the business and operations – see page 30).
    • These funds and the $3.5 million in new funding will be used to fund a total of $25.1 million in proposed priorities such as $0.8 million increased support for early childhood education and $7.5 million in increased support for Special Education (see page 25 for the full list).
    • Of the proposed $25.1 million in new priorities, only $2.9 million are described as “committed”: (1) $1.6 in new Supplemental and Concentration funding spending; (2) $1.0 million in increased Special Education transportation costs; and (3) $0.3 million in increased utilities.
  • GO’s Guiding principles for this process: GO Oakland supports a budget that will ensure that all students receive equitable education opportunities and sets the District on the path to financial stability. As the Board works to adopt a budget for the upcoming school year, we urge the District and Board to navigate these decisions in alignment with the following guiding principles:
    • Budget cuts should be kept as far from classrooms as possible.
    • Investments in vulnerable student populations such as low-income, English Language Learners, and foster youth are a priority.
    • Preserve investments in programs proven to be effective in improving educational outcomes.
      • Ex. What analysis is being used to ensure that the proposed investments are the best use of OUSD’s funds (vs. keeping them at the school site)?
    • The Board should proactively seek input from families and educators that are most likely to be impacted by budget adjustments and provide timely and accessible communications about those changes.
      • Ex. The current special budget meeting is scheduled to be held in the KDOL studio which allow for televising the meeting, but will only accommodate a small number from the public though these proposals will generate great public interest.
    • Any proposed school consolidations must be in the best interests of students, taking into account results.
      • Ex. It seems unlikely that consolidations/reorganizations that happen this late in the school year, after the options process, and with minimal/uneven engagement will set up a school community for success. With an anticipated cost savings of $1.5 million, it seems that there are more effective shifts that can be made.
    • The pain of any cuts must be shared equitably across the city.
      • Ex. A preliminary analysis of the proposed site-based cuts funds shows that LIFE academy and Coliseum College Prep Academy – two of our most celebrated high schools – will have a per pupil cut of 3-5 times greater than that of other high schools.

Next Steps

  • January 11th:  The budget will be presented at the school board meeting on Wednesday, January 11, beginning at 5 PM, at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA.
  • January 18th:  The Board will hold a special budget meeting on January 18th from 6:00 – 8:30 PM on January 18th at the KDOL studio at MetWest High school.
  • January 25th:  The Board will have a regularly scheduled meeting on the 25th from 4:00-10:00 PM at City Hall.

We will continue to provide updates as more information emerges. Subscribe to Board Watch to receive regular summaries of business coming before the Board. 

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