4 Things OUSD Must Communicate When They Talk About Budget

Last fall, we brought together a working group of parents, educators, and community members who were tired of watching budget presentations that were not created for them – or worse, designed to keep them out of the conversation, decreasing trust. 

If you’ve been following the latest budget news, you know the district has been discussing a plan to make at least $20M in reductions to next year’s budget. While these difficult decisions are in the process of being finalized, the district is also going to be held accountable for presenting their 2nd interim report at the March 11 school board meeting. This is a report with the latest status of the districts’ projected financial sustainability for this year and the next two years. 

We hear from our community repeatedly: the district budget is hard to follow and can be overwhelming. So, our community working group studied past presentations, examined national best practices, and interviewed dozens of Oakland stakeholders about what they expect to see each time OUSD presents their budget. The end result is GO’s Sunshine Budget Presentation Rubric, a tool that our team will use to publicly evaluate district budget presentations, each time district staff presents on the budget. 

As the “sunshine” name suggests, we hope this tool will shed light on the way the budget is being presented to the board and to the community. It also serves to hold decision-makers accountable to focus on what matters most, increase transparency, and authentically engage the community on the most urgent issues facing the district.

Click the video above to hear from one of our design team members, Hugo Lawton, teacher at Greenleaf, share more on why this rubric matters. 

All budget presentations must: 

Is there a clear alignment between student outcome goals and how money is being spent? We want to be able to know the money being spent is following students and benefiting them. We want to see decisions aligned to a larger district plan, like the Superintendent’s Annual Goals or the annual LCAP goals.

Are budget numbers transparent and accurate? In order to increase trust with the district and build community understanding, we need to know the numbers in the presentations are accurate and transparently see how and why numbers change over time. 

Do they anticipate upcoming complications and propose strategic solutions? We want to clearly see that the district is planning ahead as they think about the way challenges can directly or indirectly impact students both positively or negatively. This can reassure us the district is continuously and strategically proposing solutions that allow for short-term and long-term financial sustainability. 

Is the information presented understandable and accessible by any community member? When the information presented uses accessible language, visual representations, and is summarized, the community is able to better grasp the content. This  increases who gets to be part of these conversations, giving the community deeper agency to hold the district accountable.  

STAY TUNED!

The first time you will see the rubric in action will be for the 2nd interim report presentation on March 11th. When rating this budget presentation, we will be able to recognize where they’re doing well and highlight areas where they must deliver more clarity and transparency. We hope the district will take that feedback into consideration and use it to improve future budget presentations, like the 3rd interim report, the close of books, and approval of next year’s budget. 

If you’d like to make sure you see our scoring of the the 2nd interim’s report, sign-up to receive GO’s School Board Watch emails here

You can other recent budgeting news below:

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