Part of the Bay Area News Group

Forum at City Hall: “Battle of the Budgets”

By Katy Murphy
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 at 6:26 pm in finances, OUSD central office, Tony Smith.

Oakland school district’s superintendent says the public school system will have to shave another $25 million from next year’s budget. The city is also struggling to make ends meet (See: Parking Meter Uproar).

What can Oaklanders do about it? What services should the city, the county and the school district attempt to preserve?

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a panel discussion on the topic on Tuesday, Sept. 15, featuring Tony Smith, Oakland’s new superintendent; Susan Muranishi, Alameda County Administrator; and Niccolo DeLuca, a lobbyist and former deputy administrator for the City of Oakland.

It’s from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3, and you’re all invited. You can find the flier here.

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  • Teacher

    I’m thinking the people who work for the City of Oakland at the top of the salary/OT list that your newsgroup just published could easily afford a 10 percent cut. How much would that generate? Did that list also include OUSD employees? I think the list of OUSD employees who make more than $100,000 (base salary plus extended contracts, OT, etc.) would be enlightening, especially for those teachers and other employees who earn less than $50,000 and who likely will have to take a pay cut.

  • Oakland Teacher

    I completely agree about the pay cuts. Asking people who barely earn a living wage to take a pay cut is far different that asking people who earn 6 figures.

    As both a parent and an Oakland teacher, I will not be able to afford to pay my bills if my pay or benefits are cut. As long as Oakland doesn’t care about having teachers with experience and community ties/families, I guess it will all work out: we will just have a migrant labor force of new low-paid teachers who leave mid-year (when they realize they did not really want to teach after all) to as soon as they get their credential and can teach elsewhere.

  • Nextset

    Oakland Teacher: If there is no money, pay will be cut. It doesn’t matter what you feel, want or think. You must get over thinking this is some kind of “what we deserve” thing.

    Pay does not have to be a “living wage”. Nice if it is. When the State of CA destroys it’s tax base, this is just a taste of what happens. And school services has a lower priority than law enforcement/prisons/infrastructure. Things are going to get much worse.

    The only solution is for the state to stop it’s tax base and job destruction ways. That’s probably not going to happen before a real financial collapse comes. Perhaps the answer is for the teachers concerned to do what everybody else with education and money is doing, which is to consider fleeing California to such states as OR and WA.

    You just can’t hold back an ocean. At some point you have to do what it is you can do.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Nextset:

    If there is no money is the key. However, there was money to pay an 10% increase in the Superintendent’s salary, while the District is also paying Mr. Matthews State Trustee salary at the same rate as the State Administrator salary.

    The District had spent something like $40 million for consultants and seems to be continuing to spend for consultants at a similar pace.

    Remember when the State illegally returned power to the School Board the MOU on returning power said that the District continue to implement “reforms” instituted by the State. These reforms were decisions made when more money was available. That money included the loan from the State and money from outside forces such as Eli Broad that will not be available for the Board. In addition, over the years of the State take-over Oakland received year after year of COLA that was seldomed or only fractionally passed on to teachers and staff workers. In a sense the Board agreed to unfunded “reform” agenda in a time of economic cut back. The State said in the MOU if the reform agenda was not followed it could retake control of the District.

    I agree that there is less money and a crisis. Yet, the District’s cutting teacher and staff salaries has to be put in context of the priorities in the budget. Unfortunately, the method of budgeting has not changed to meet the economic challenges the District faces.

    I believe there should be zero based budgeting. Time of economic crisis RRB budgeting is luxury the District cannot afford. If the reform agenda was not present, then the priorities the Board spends would most likely be different.

    My concern is that the Board is not able to change its old pattern of accepting what the Administration brings as the method of budgeting. And, the Board has not insisted that the administration bring a survival budget striped of commitment to past reforms.

    To let go the reform agenda will put the District at risk of another State take-over but that is a risk the Board should take if it wants to minimize increases in class size, cut backs on teachers’ positions, and cutting more support staff.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Nextset

    Jim M: I agree that the board should tell the state that it can take the schools back if the alternative is unreasonable operating standards. Better the board walks out than do what is completely unreasonable.

    Therefore the board might need to put the state on notice that due to the budget emergency it will unilaterally cancel previously agreed to measures that under the circumstances are now impossible. Basically the board has to play hardball to meet it’s duty to the students which include teacher funding before political payoffs and consultants.

    Having said that – the pay of the teacher’s can’t be set upon what you would wish to pay them because you’re a nice board. The students are the object of the board’s concern and charity, not the teachers. The teachers are employees and not objects of bounty.