So much for innovation

Much of the Oakland school district’s one-time federal stimulus cash — $10.1 million in stabilization funds and about $5 million (half) of the influx of special education money — will simply help to backfill the latest cutbacks expected from the state for this school year and next, Oakland’s CFO, Vernon Hal, reported tonight.

Hal said the federal money was “initially targeted for innovation,” but that plans have changed. He says he’s preparing for an additional $8 million drop in state revenue (about $225 per student) for the current school year alone, which ends June 30. (See his presentation here.)

“With 6 weeks to go, there’s nothing left to do but to backfill those resources,” Hal told the school board tonight.

Here’s the upshot of his presentation: Think times are tight now? The federal stimulus money is dulling the pain by about $15 million. Without those one-time funds, Hal said, “it’s not a pretty picture.” In other words, Hal said, the stimulus money is simply buying the district some time.

“It basically gives us a year to make adjustments,” he said. “To make cuts. To make sensible cuts.”

Heads up! At the Teaching & Learning Committee meeting on Monday (6:30 to 8 p.m.), staff are going to make recommendations about the future of some of the “Focus Schools” — those with low enrollment (i.e. budgets in the red) and/or low test scores — interim superintendent Roberta Mayor said tonight.

Hal said about 12 schools have deficits. He also said the district’s phase-out plan (at BEST, Robeson, and Peralta Creek) is costing the district about $1 million per school.

Unless the timeline shifts, these decisions would take effect the 2010-2011 school year — not this coming fall.

image from Dan Zen’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • Jim Mordecai

    To meet the shortage of cash in June Hal wants to borrow from Measure B money that is for school construction. There is suppose to be in place a Measure B oversight committee to check that Measure B money is spent on what the voters were promised.

    The money that is borrow will be paid back as the State releases the money it owes the District and has delayed forwarding to Oakland until the new fiscal year.

    Hal also said that the County has already approved borrowing the money internally to meet cash flow. It was County refusing to allow internal borrowing that resulted in the state take-over.

    Jim Mordecai

  • harlemmoon

    Does it make sense to go forward with discussions about the fate of certain schools with a new Schools Chief set to take his seat in just over a month?
    Is there any merit to having him assess and weigh in rather than inheriting the potential firestorm that always follows school closures?