Whoa! OUSD enrollment PowerPoint jolts reporter out of seat

In calm, measured tones, a demographer told the Oakland school board that the district’s already dwindled enrollment of 39,700 could shrink to 26,200 in just five years. Five years ago, more than 53,000 kids attended regular district schools.

The drop will more likely be reduced to just 32,000 by 2011-12, the demographers said, but that’s still a pretty steep slide. It matters for financial reasons, since the district — and in Oakland, individual schools — are funded based on their average attendance.

The explosion of publicly funded, independently run charter schools is one major cause cited in the report. Other reasons are people moving out of the area and lower birth rates.

In all fairness to charters, not every family who chooses a charter school would have otherwise signed up for the Oakland school system. But some of them probably would have.

I plan to write a story about this soon. If any of you want to share your thoughts on why you think the school system is shrinking, what that might mean for the students who stay in the system, or what the district should do to draw more students, comment away.

Also, feel free to e-mail me with your contact info so I can interview you — especially if you think this is not a big deal.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://n/a Turner Dodge

    “The explosion of publicly funded, independently run charter schools is one major cause cited in the report.”

    Wrong. If the students move from the public schools to the charter schools, the state revenue is reduced but so is the cost of serving those students. Besides, they are not that many.

    The movement of families out of Oakland is a bigger deal. But, this is not the main problem. The main problem is a strategic planning issue. The problem is OUSD not adjusting in time to reductions in revenue. If revenue dwindles, expenses should dwindle as well. OUSD simply blames other people and institutions instead of dealing with the real problem.

  • http://www.learningcomputers.info Joseph

    Stop blaming the Charter Schools!!

    It is called capitalism, it is called free market competition. It is what this country was founded on.

    Running a school district is a business. Like any other business, if you do not provide a good product or service, people go somewhere else to get what they need. It just so happens that the service the district provides is education….and they are doing a poor job.

    Schools talk about money, parents talk about education. Maybe if the school district would focus on kids instead of dollars, they may be able to attract students by providing a quality service……..an actual education.

    Charter schools are doing more with less…….how is that possible???? It would seem to me that it is not as much of an issue of funding, it is an issue of management.

    Administers are getting big dollars, the teachers union gives away well over $1million dollars on lobby activities….yet the kids don’t have pencils and paper??? Hhmmmmm

    It is my opinion that, like any other business, when times get lean you buckle down and work harder and longer.

    Please stop whinning and pointing fingers and…….

    EDUCATE THE YOUTH, It’s your job.

  • James Jones, Jr., 2007 SSC Chair Sherman Elementary

    I DON’T THINK IT’S A BIG DEAL. What baffles me is why they are baffled. Any district full of failing schools should expect the same result. All the best Schools in OUSD are full. If I want to enroll my kid in an OUSD School, it will have to be at a failing school. Now why would I want to do that?

    If the Head of OUSD was from the Business-World, he/she would view Charter enrollment as an unofficial report-card for his/her School District’s reputation and performance. He/she might say, “More and more of our customers are choosing our competitors, why?, What do they want?, and how can I, with the intellectual and capital resources at my disposal, within the constraints of the rules of egulations of my industry.. how could I give them what they want?” But that’s not how it works in OUSD–not yet.

  • John W.

    As a life time resident of Oakland and 25 year veteran of the OUSD I have seen things go from bad to worse to intolerable. I continue to have insights into the circumstances of different Oakland schools, including some of the “desirable hill schools.” Gleaned insights, from my hands on experience in OUSD, convinced me to sell my beautiful home in Montclair and buy a c(what I can afford) small condo in Orinda. I did it for the children, more specifically my child who will be attending the Orinda schools K-12. Better to live in a shack in academic heaven than a mansion in academic hell. And I don’t want to hear none of that crap about “celebrating diversity!” Perhaps one day, after my child has graduated from highschool, I’ll return to Oakland. Mountain View cemetary is a beautiful place.

  • Doowhopper

    Guytoe is right on.What goes on in the confines of the OUSD would NEVER be tolerated in places like Orinda and Danville.Lets be honest-way too many teachers and administrators let the students get away with murder because they are black and Latino.I mean,you KNOW how how THOSE kids are,right?What do you EXPECT?
    Liberals and conservatives who accept this nonsense both are culpable.With the conservatives its much more blatant but lots of your touchy feely liberals play into the failure game too by trying to be oh so hip and cool while their students fall farther and farther behind.
    There are many days when I walk out of an Oakland Public school thinking I have fallen down the Rabbit hole into a netherworld of absurdity.And whats so sad is that the gross inequities and enabling of dysfuntional behavior is considered NORMAL!

  • Caroline

    One poster says:


    That’s generally not true. If, say, 3 students per grade leave, there is NO reduced cost at all, because the school needs just as many teachers and other staff, and there’s obviously no reduction in the cost of running and maintaining facilities. And the loss of the dollars for the student harms the school significantly. .

    Another poster says:


    It’s highly debatable whether charter schools are doing more, though they have vastly better PR (courtesy of the Bush Administration and the mightily funded right-wing think tanks that promote them). And it’s equally debatable whether they have less, though again, that’s the image that the charter movement promotes.

    Until fall ’06, California school districts were required to fund charters at a set amount, even if it was greater than the amount the districts could give their own school. I don’t know how this applied to Oakland Unified, but in my district, charter high schools got $800 more per student per year than non-charter high schools, subsidized by the students at the non-charters. This inequity was rectified by SB319, which took effect in fall ’06. Now charters get the same district money. But they also get megabucks from the Gates Foundation and other private funders.

    And they don’t have union teachers, so they can pay as little as they can get away with. Charters also teach far fewer special-ed students and English language learners than non-charters, and those are among the costliest students to educate. And many clearly pick, choose and kick out students in a manner that traditional public schools can’t do, with means they can limit their numbers of challenging (and costly) students.

    So the claim that they do more with less doesn’t really check out.

  • Small Town Kid


    Isn’t OSA a school that selects their students on the basis of a audition and their other artistic/academic works? Why is this a problem? – there are certainly other public schools that have selective admission.

    There are also alternatives to OSA – with other places to perform in both middle and high school.

    Kids run into this issue all of the time – who gets good parts in the school play, who gets the best position on the sports team (or even gets on the team at all.) They learn to deal with it just as you and I have.

    I don’t see any reason why auditioning students should make Mr. Harris sleep poorly – I’m sure he has plenty of other worries to keep him up at night.