What’s Happening in Oakland Education? April 2021 Edition

Welcome to What’s Happening in Oakland Education?, a newsletter to keep our community informed. We know how busy families and educators are. The typical OUSD board meeting stretches past midnight and few parents or teachers can tune in as they juggle so many responsibilities. Here’s the top headlines for our first edition to keep you updated on decisions that impact you and the students you care about:

  • The First 100 Days of the OUSD School Board
  • OUSD’s new Enrollment Stabilization Policy
  • COVID Budget: $300 million one-time fund
  • Black Student Reparations Policy

The First 100 Days of the OUSD School Board

It’s been roughly 100 days since four new school board directors took office, and we’ve already seen distinct changes take place. We applaud newly elected Board Member Dr. Clifford Thompson who joined us for a community chat, and Directors VanCedric Williams (join us on April 13) and Sam Davis who will be joining us in the coming months to listen to and work with our community. However, the board has gotten off to a rocky start, not always working together in the best way possible for Oakland’s kids and families (i.e. arguing over meeting rules or making personal attacks). Effective school boards spend less time on operational issues and more time focusing on policies to improve student achievement. Disagreements will happen, that’s the nature of being a part of a board where members have various backgrounds, experience and political leanings. However, how board members address those disagreements sets the tone for a productive or contentious meeting. In the next 100 days and beyond, we urge the directors to find ways to reach common ground while acknowledging each other’s differences and focus more on improving school quality for all Oakland families.

OUSD’s new Enrollment Stabilization Policy

OUSD’s new policy attempts to address the decline of enrollment of OUSD-operated schools over the last few decades by making enrollment more accessible for OUSD families, while also prohibiting the District from using their resources to promote enrollment in competing schools, including charter public schools and private schools (i.e. enrollment system, school maps, etc).

While we agree with the board’s urgency to address the decline of enrollment over the past few decades and provide additional resources for OUSD schools to better market themselves to families, this policy still doesn’t address the underlying concerns that families have with the lack of quality options available. It also separates district schools from charter public schools in the online enrollment systems, which makes it more difficult for families to see all the options available to them. Changes to the enrollment policy need to focus on making the enrollment process easier for families to navigate, not more complex.

COVID Budget: $300 million one-time funds

Is $300 million enough to reimagine everything? OUSD is receiving nearly $300 million in one-time-use COVID state and federal 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). 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.  If you want to get involved, OUSD will be hosting the following meetings to continue determine how these funds will be allocated:

  • 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

Sign-up for a 30-min chat to learn more or share your thoughts.

Black Student Reparations Policy

The Reparations for Black Students policy is a resolution that directs the Superintendent to take all steps necessary to eliminate the Black student opportunity gap across all schools by 2025. The policies main areas are: 1) Addressing the impact of COVID-19 2) Establishment of a Task Force 3) Revenue Allocation 4) School Closures and Charter Co-locations Impact 5) Additional Actions. 

After months of heated debate and meetings, the policy passed on March 24th, with a key amendment which removed language around not closing predominantly Black schools in Oakland because it would impact the district’s ability to be fiscally sustainable. While it is the first policy of its kind, the conversations around the policy have been difficult and painful. Here’s a video of Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell speaking about the necessary commitment to our Black students as part of a strategic plan and the budget challenges the district is facing:

We’d love to hear your thoughts on What’s Happening in Oakland Education?. Let us know what you liked and what you’d like to see in future editions.  

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