Is $300 million enough to reimagine EVERYTHING?

OUSD is receiving nearly $300 million in one-time-use COVID relief funds to spend over the next three years. It’s a huge amount of money (almost half of the district’s annual operating budget). We must use these funds to accelerate student learning and to ensure we never go back to a “normal” that failed far too many Oakland families. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell has emphasized the need to ensure these temporary investments are used to maximize student outcomes and build on existing priorities especially for our Black and brown students. However, last week, OUSD board members shared a lengthy list of over 60 initial priorities that lacks the cohesion and focus that students and families deserve in this moment.   

Exactly how much money has OUSD received and how much will they be receiving?

OUSD has a total of at least $294.7M to spend over the next three years. As of now, the District has already spent a little over ¼ of these funds, ($78.7M) mainly on basic needs for the transition to distance learning and preparing school buildings for in-person learning. The district must now determine how to allocate the remaining $216M by June.  

What should be considered as we think about how these funds should be allocated?

  • Use one-time funds for one-time expenses: The money is only temporary and should not be used as a band aid solution for long-term budget challenges. OUSD still had difficult budget trade-offs to make in the future to ensure sustainability, but these one-time funds are a huge chance to plan our approach to learning recovery in a way that doesn’t reproduce historic inequities.   
  • Listen to students and families: We must ensure that the students and families who have been most impacted by the pandemic and by historic inequity in the district are shaping these important decisions.  
  • Maintain focus: Even before the pandemic, much of OUSD’s budget challenges have stemmed from layering on one initiative over another without cohesion. While the pandemic has caused new financial obligations that must be met to ensure safety and help students recover, adding too many priorities will prevent the District from implementing any initiative well. Two priorities that surfaced among most of the board members were mental health resources for students and staff and credit recovery for high school students. 

What’s next?

The final vote on how the District will allocate these funds will take place in June. In the meantime, OUSD will be hosting the following meetings to gather input:

  • April 15- Budget & Finance Committee: Analysis of Board’s priority areas and integration into Spending plan
  • April 28- Budget & Finance Committee: Bring completed report to full Board 
  • May 26- Board Meeting: First read of LCAP (including one-time funds)
  • June- Board Meetings: Final Budget & LCAP adoption

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