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On spring break, it’s business as usual for OUSD board

By Katy Murphy
Monday, April 6th, 2009 at 11:37 am in enrollment, families, finances, health, OUSD central office, preschool, School board news, students, teachers, the arts.

This Wednesday may fall right in the middle of spring break, and on the first night of Passover, but the Oakland school board plans to meet anyway.

A couple of major issues appear on this week’s agenda, including details of dramatic adult school cutbacks and the closure of some of the school district’s preschool classrooms and programs.

Given the timing of the meeting, I wonder how many people will be there make it. You can find the full agenda here, the adult school presentation here (the section closures are listed toward the end), and the Early Childhood Education slides here. It starts at 4 p.m. this week, with public comments close to the top of the agenda.

Facing more than $2 million in retroactive state cuts for this year alone (out of a budget that was originally $13.9 million), the adult education department plans to protect most of its GED, ESL, career tech and parenting classes, while closing many of its programs for senior citizens. Its arts and communication sections will plunge to zero, too, under this plan to balance the budget.

I’m writing a story about this dramatic change to Oakland’s adult education program, so let us know how you think these projected cuts will affect you, your family and the community.

image from tilo driessen’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

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  • Bob Mandel

    The greatest irony and glaring injustice of these cuts stem from choices made by the Adult Ed Administration and not required by the State. $2.5 million is currently set aside for facilities improvements at Shands Adult School, primarily to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yet at the same moment, the AE Admin has laid-off (“released”) 74 hourly teachers almost all of whom are in the Adults with Disabilities (AWD) or Older Adults (OA) programs! A commensurate number of classes are being closed.
    The $2.5 million is down from the $4 million originally budgeted. However, the District and its Adult Ed program are under no legal order that compels this expenditure at this time. Indeed, the $2.5 million is to deal with “potential liabilities.” Adult Ed has lived with these “potential liabilities” for years. Were even half of that $2.5 million reallocated to restore cuts in the AWD and Older Adult budgets, probably all or nearly all of the cut classes could be restored and teachers’ jobs with them.
    One must wonder “what about the liability” to the lives of those now having their classes cut? and the “high impact”, completely negative, on them? The fact that 23% of the AE budget still goes to AWD/OA programs is not justification for needless closures.
    Finally, the State has permitted the District itself to reduce its Maintenance Reserve from, if I recall correctly, 3% to 1%. Reportedly the District has enough set aside that the Maintenance Reserve will actually still be 2%. If the State is sufficiently unworried about “potential liabilities” that it is permitting a reduction in Maintenance monies, why is Oakland Adult Ed making itself the exception?
    The major issue continues to be the outrageous cuts to education and all social services. In a State with at least the 8th largest economy in the world, there is plenty of wealth to be tapped to provide basic human necessities. Since Prop. 13 was passed, Corporate California has very conservatively escaped with over $200 billion in taxes that should have been paid. The OEA is seeking to link hands with other organizations to require that corporate wealth be redistributed. But even in the context of this broader issue, the question must be posed: why should the Adult Ed Admin with the sanction of the District and the State Administrator be needlessly slashing programs to those who are most in need of help?
    Bob Mandel
    AE ESL Instructor

  • TheTruthHurts

    Mr. Mandel, I thought that even if the cuts were not made this year, they would need to be made next year. Wouldn’t the jobs get cut anyway? Aren’t the budget cuts permanent?

  • Teddy Ramsden

    I feel many mixed feelings in regards to losing the Creative Expression and Fitness classes I’ve taught to frail elders for 22 years. I feel a sense of freedom because change has come, I feel hope at times for my future, I feel a sense of deep loss and sadness, I feel angry that something doesn’t feel fair, I feel anxious about money, health care, paying bills. My heart is crying for this loss because this week I must say goodbye to my students who are elders. I chose this kind of work because I felt it was a path with heart. I have a master’s degree in Creative Arts Therapy and I am a Registered Board Certified Art Therapist with special training to be able to do this type of work. I know my skills benefited my students and I gave them my best. Job training and GED are important but it’s not what I do, not what I teach, and there’s a selectiveness to this process of distributing the diminished budget, a selectiveness that leaves qualified well-trained teachers out because our skills aren’t related to career development. Our students are frail and old, full of richness, wisdom, songs and beauty which our classes awaken and celebrate. Our students have already served society in careers. Some were doctors, nurses, judges, dentists, teachers, priests, nuns. My beautiful classes will end. I’ll turn in my teaching supplies and move on. But this week I feel sad. And so do other teachers of frail older adults whose classes, like mine will end on Good Friday. It’s also ironic that, for the purpose of promoting job training and career development, many of us professional people should lose our jobs which are our careers for which we’re educated and trained. My mother who was Italian American always taught me and my brother that, even if you were poor, it was important to share whatever it is you had. I wish Oakland Adult and Career Education could be more like that. When I first began working as a teacher it was for Oakland Adult Education. Then the name changed to Oakland Adult and Career Education. Now it seems to be becoming Oakland Career Education. It’s important for people to have jobs and career skills, GED, yes. But what about the elders? It feels cold what’s happening in Oakland and reminds me of Jerry Garcia’s song “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart.”
    Teddy Ramsden, ATR-BC
    Adult Education Teacher/Frail Older Adult Program
    and Adults with Disabilities Program
    Oakland Adult and Career Education

  • Pingback: Strike that: Adult ed is no longer on board agenda - The Education Report - Reporter Katy Murphy’s blog on Oakland schools

  • Katy Murphy

    The discussion on adult ed budget cuts has been postponed until after spring break/Passover.

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2009/04/07/strike-that-adult-ed-is-no-longer-on-board-agenda/

  • Roberta Tracy

    The loss of our adult school teachers can only have a major negative impact on adult day programs. Our participants maintain cognitive levels through communication, socialization, and physical fitness activities. The result? They stay better longer and are frequently able to age in place, relieving our overburdened long term care system and saving Medi-Cal dollars. Caregivers of adult day participants get affordable, reliable respite. The result? Most reduce stress and avoid related health care problems. Many hold down jobs; others bring commitments to the younger generation into better balance. Incidence of elder abuse declines. Teaching adult day care is far more than picking out a pretty craft. It is engaging the clients, celebrating their existing abilities, and honoring their lives. It takes people of uncommon creativity, compassion, and skill to do this well. For our seniors, for our families, for the community at large, saving the jobs of adult school teachers for the frail elderly is more than important; it is essential. It takes a village to raise a child and that village needs its elders.

    Roberta Tracy
    Program Director
    BACS Adult Day Care

  • TheTruthHurts

    It is sad in the state squabbling over crumbs, useful programs are being cut statewide and even nationwide. Priorities are priorities, but it is clear the human impact is real regardless.