Money given to schools and later taken away is never acceptable. Earlier this year, schools in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) had funds frozen and removed from school site budgets. Then this spring, OUSD middle schools lost expected Measure G1 funds for 2017-18. While getting funds out to school sites quickly is well-intentioned, the impact of giving and taking away money continues to erode public trust in the District’s ability to responsibly manage its finances.
Measure G1 has two major parts. For the next 12 years it provides:
- A raise for all school staff
- Money to Oakland middle schools to support art, music, and world language programs
In February, the District loaded the first annual allocation of Measure G1 funds into OUSD middle school budgets for the 2017-2018 school year. In May, school sites abruptly learned that the entirety of these funds was no longer available, and the explanation for this change was the District’s miscalculation of when the tax revenue would be received from Measure G1.
How Things Should Happen
The life cycle of a parcel tax like Measure G1 has three important phases:
- The school board puts the measure on the ballot for voter approval.
- If the measure passes, the school board selects an oversight committee to support with implementation regulations.
- Finally, the District finance office allocates funding to schools that have plans reviewed by the oversight committee and approved by the school board.
How Things Did Happen
Prior to the school board selecting an oversight committee to help oversee the planning and implementation process-
- District leadership began working with school sites to develop their Measure G1 plans
- The District financial office loaded funds into school site budgets but overlooked that Measure G1 tax revenue would not be available until the end of the fiscal year 2017-2018
- Middle school communities submitted Measure G1 plans, only to find out that they would not receive the expected funding to implement those plans
Important Takeaways about G1’s Implementation:
- The District should not have loaded Measure G1 funds into school budgets this spring because the ballot measure specifically states that no tax revenue will be collected until the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Slowing down the timeline for implementation would have avoided giving and taking money away from school sites.
- The District should not have provided schools with funding from Measure G1 before the oversight committee was put into place. Allowing the oversight committee to establish the implementation timeline would have ensured that the ballot language was driving when and how funds would be distributed to school sites.
- Schools should not have been asked to begin planning for additional staffing positions with an inaccurate allocation of Measure G1 funds. School communities creating plans and later being told that the plans were based on inaccurate funding numbers was a mistake that could have been avoided.
On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, the Oakland Board of Education voted 4-3 to change the plans of how the Measure G1 funds will be allocated this year. The School Board decided that only 50 percent of the funds dedicated to middle school enrichment will be distributed in 2017-18. The Measure G1 funds that are intended for teacher salary increases will not be distributed until 2018-19 after the tax revenue has been collected.
GO Public Schools Oakland shares a deep appreciation for all the adults working hard to bring the vision of Measure G1 to life. Our network of families, educators and communities was proud to support G1’s focus on art, music, and world language programs and raises for educator staff.
Our network has also expressed concern about the negative impact on school communities from the District’s loading and removing of site funds.
For the sake of our schools and for our students, these types of unforced errors in OUSD need to end. There is an erosion of trust every time the District makes an error of this magnitude.
It is going to take the District improving its budget process and consistently making correct and definitive budget allocations to schools for this culture to change. Our elected officials and central office leaders need to prioritize doing things well over doing things fast. We also need to know that when unforced errors are made, they reflect on the important takeaways, and corrections are institutionalized to ensure the errors are not repeated in the future.