An up-close look at OUSD spending

Ed Report readers, here’s your chance to earn some *EXTRA CREDIT*: 1) Pretend you’re an Oakland school board member. 2) Take a look at these slides, which break down how OUSD spends its money. 3) Tell us where you think the district should cut back. The latest budget cut projection I’ve heard is $28 million.

I have to say, this is by far the most detailed analysis of department-by-department spending I’ve seen in the three years I’ve covered OUSD.

If you look at the slides, you’ll see that the network executive offices for elementary, middle and high schools have a combined budget of more than $3 million (Slide 22), and the OUSD police budget is $5.1 million (Slide 20). Other areas, such as custodial services, receive much less.

What questions do you have about the district’s spending priorities? What services do you believe should remain in place, or receive more funding than they currently do? What areas don’t seem as vital, given the fiscal crisis? Should the district consider central office pay cuts as an alternative to layoffs? What budget information do you want to know that isn’t in this analysis?

The board will be addressing this presentation at a special meeting this evening at the district office. It starts at 5 p.m., and is open to the public.

If you can’t make it, you should be able to catch it live online by going to this page and clicking the “live video meeting” tab. Want to see it later? You can find archived videos of past meetings by going to the board calendar, selecting the meeting you want to see and hitting the “video” button.

Katy Murphy

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

  • district employee

    a couple of important notes on this:

    – The budget amounts listed are the funds that are allocated to departments directly from the central office. As you know, school sites choose to “purchase” some services from some departments (like custodial services or instructional services) based on the needs of the schools. Those purchases are not included here.

    – The budgeted amounts are for staffing AND non-labor costs. The number of FTEs listed does not make up the total budget of the department.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the info, District Employee.

  • harlemmoon

    So, let me get this straight: a school has to “purchase” custodial and instructional services?
    When did these vital services become optional?
    Perhaps more importantly, when a school decides not to “purchase” these core services, are our children not adversely impacted?

  • cranky teacher

    Harlemmoon, it’s not true “purchasing.” More like schools decide how to apportion their share. It is an idea called “site-based budgeting” which is supposed to actually get the money where it is most needed by allowing decentralized decisions.

    In general, I like decentralization, but not being an administrator, I don’t know the pros and cons. I know some folks hate it, but I don’t their reasons.

  • cranky teacher

    Welcome any steps toward transparency. These are still pretty broad numbers, though. And there some very big categories. One number says $79 million for something called “district expenses.” Then there is the matter of all the money that is divvied up by the school sites — how are they spending their money?

    Off the bat, one thing that jumps out to me is it looks like something like $25 million combined is going toward HQ-based curriculum and professional development. Since much of this is a complete waste, I bet you could cut some of that without losing much.

    Also, half a mil for JROTC? No offense, since I know that program helps some kids, but I just assumed the military paid for what is essentially an on-campus recruiting pipeline.

    My calculator spit out this rough result from these numbers: $15,400 per student. Isn’t that much higher than the state average? If so, I believe not enough is trickling down to the bottom: The classrooms and the base salaries.

    Also: Do these numbers count the Title 1 and other special funds that are doled out through the School Site Councils?

  • ThatBKChick

    Yes the schools have to requestion all supplies and services themselves. It’s called Site Based Budgeting. Principals are no longer Prinicipals anymore. The concern for learning has gone out the window, thus, Prinicipals are affectionately referred to as the “Administrator”. This is exactly what Principals do now, Administrate and navigate how they are going to managed a (corporate strategy to streamline what supplies, teachers and or services) to make it each and every year. This is sad…but very often true. Administrators/Principals have to cut their Asst Principal positions, often times spending more than 50% of their time at the District and or elsewhere other than the school site. I have seen a school that had to get rid of their Asst Principal, and Nurse (which is needed in West Oakland, because of the Asthma and increase of Black students that have ashtma) just to make ends meet.

  • cranky teacher

    I think each school needs two principals: One who is primarily a general manager of funds, keeping the school in compliance with state and district rules, etc., and one who just deals with students and teachers — behavior, curriculum, instruction, evaluation.

  • harlemmoon

    So, if this budgeting process is so controversial, why does it remain in use?
    Are there not other, more equitable, options? Surely, there is a more enlightened way to acquire the core educational elements that these children (and teachers) desperately need.

  • UnionSupporter-But

    Cranky Teacher: Two principals would mean about $180,000 less for classroom instruction per school. The $180,000 is for salary, benefits, additional administrators for the additional staff and professional development. In a 500 student school that would mean pulling an average of $10,800 from every classroom. Would that work for you?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Dude, chill. You’re being too literal.

    My point was that the two aspects of the job are very difficult to balance, not to suggest we necessarily need to spend more money on administrators overall.

    I was thinking of the schools which have 1500 to 2000 student where the principals can’t get to know their staff or students because they are constantly dealing with paperwork, district meetings, and trying to find the money to keep things rolling.

    But at any size school, if a principal can’t out of their office or meetings and into the classrooms and schoolyards, they can’t lead or evaluate well.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Harlemmoon: Like any innovation, this one is a response to earlier problems. In this case, massive inefficiencies when a “one size fits all” bureaucracy spends money in ways those who are closest to the ground have no say in. Well-run schools can benefit greatly from being able to have more say in how they run things.

    No safety problems at your school? Spend less on security. Tons of remedial math students? Spend some money on remedial math curriculum.

    And like any solution, it brings with it new and different problems. If your school is poorly managed or even corrupt, for example, giving the site more say-so can lead to bad things indeed.

  • Jim Mordecai

    A special part of the Randy Ward initiated RBB (Results Based Budgeting) is trying to improve attendance by rewarding the schools with better attendance with more funding.

    A study of weighted student budgeting in San Francisco and Oakland recommended that attendance be dropped from the RBB model because it did not do what it was designed to do and increase attendance. The theory did not work in practice. But, RBB continues apace and money is taken from poverty schools and given to schools with better attendance numbers.

    The Oakland School Board continues to ignore this recommendation to end using attendance in the RBB model. Strange that the Board pays for a study and then ignores a recommendation that would seem calls for Board action.

    By the way, the theory of RBB was built on the work of a Southern California UCLA business professor William G. Ouchi. He has out a new book and uses Oakland as an example of how the implementing of site based budgeting and RBB has driven up test scores.

    The RBB approach is favored by Eli Board and some would think that return of local control was contingent on the Board keeping its hands off of RBB approach to budgeting.

    And, although there was a comparative study of San Francisco and Oakland’s use of a student weighted budget model, nothing in the study indicated that the student weighted budgeting model was more cost effective than the models most districts use as few districts have experimented with the student weighted model approach.

    It appears that RBB as a decentralized approach is inefficient in responding to the crisis of needing to cut budget. Sure many principals want to maintain control over their site budgets and don’t want to return that power to the central authority. But, I would argue that the true cost of decentralization is never identified. Whether the model is good or bad is now moot in a time of budget cuts.

    The question is can OUSD afford RBB in time of budget cutting?

    And, the question should not be what does Eli Broad want?

    Jim Mordecai

  • Cranky Teacher

    Jim, that is really interesting stuff, but can you put it more laymen’s terms?

    Are you saying that if two schools have different daily attendance numbers they should receive the same amount of money based on the number of students actually enrolled, including ghost students?

    I am skeptical of Broad, et al, but I like local control — are you saying the attendance clause is some sort of crafty loophole to accomplish some nefarious end? Help me out here.

  • Ms. McLaughlin

    About the two-principal plan:

    Isn’t that why we have good vice principals?

    I went to a high school with 1800 students. Just by reading the yearbook, I knew the names of most students at the school. Furthermore, the morning our principal smiled and called ME by name, it was a little disconcerting! But then I smiled back at him in the hallway, and that silent relationship between two busy people was really all the support I needed from Dr. Stattner.

    My music teacher, however, was like a second father to me. I’d never have graduated without his support.

    It’s quite possible for a large school to do its job exceedingly well. The principal doesn’t have to do everything. And while I don’t at all want to bash the small Oakland schools that are doing their jobs well, educating 1800 children at four excellent small schools is always going to cost more than educating 1800 children at one excellent big school.

    ANY excellent school, though, needs to stay where it is and keep doing what it’s doing. Yaaaaay indeed!

    But…when carving up a school results only in complex, multifaceted mediocrity, putting Humpty Dumpty back together again is an expensive, disruptive undertaking.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I would really appreciate one of the principals here describing what they would want the job to look like. I’ve heard some principals talk about RB with great admiration. I could see both sides. Who the heck wants to deal with paperwork and driving downtown when teachers and students need your attention. But, what greater power could a principal have than control over her budget? Worse, what happens when you don’t have control over your budget? Heck, I’m not principal – educate me.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Cranky Teacher Says:

    In response to comment #13: In most school districts a school’s attendance does not directly impact the school’s finances. Lost State revenue for those not attending is a hit taken by the whole district. It does not solely impact on the school’s allocation of money but the impact is diluted by virtue of being a part of a district.

    I believe that Randy Ward was trying to increase attendance at schools with poor attendance by tying the amount of money each school received to students attending. That experiment failed to increase attendance but that provision of RBB continues with the Board’s inaction.

    Some may say that if kids don’t attend a school then the school shouldn’t get money. Others, me included, would say that attendance reflects differences in socio-economic groups and subtracting money from a group with poor attendance is wrong. Poor students need more resources and not less.

    In addition, since I started teaching in 1967 there has been a change in the State’s method of calculation of attendance. The State now only pays if a child is in their seat. The State had accept a signed parent absence note and provide full payment for such excused absences. Again in terms of differences in socio-economic groups in terms of health and attendance the schools without poor students attending receive more money from the State.

    But, unlike money taken under RBB and redistributed to schools with higher attendance, the State of California does not have to pay when students don’t attend. There is actually an economic incentive for poor attendance in California schools as such absences save the State money. California taxpayers have gained by the poverty of its school children but the cost of prisons has not made for such a good deal.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Cranky Teacher

    I appreciate your expertise, Jim, but that wasn’t particularly convincing. There are plenty of ways extra tax money is funneled to low socioeconomic schools, from Title 1 and LEP monies especially, and these make sense.

    Paying a school to teach children who are not there does not make sense to me.

    And yes, a school does have some power in increasing attendance. It can provide:
    — safe, clean environment
    — caring, professional teachers
    — contact with families, community outreach and parent education
    — on-campus health, mental health and family counseling programs.
    — inviting extracurricular activities which give students incentives to attend class
    — truancy official.

    Personal anecdote: When I was a kid, I missed a LOT of school one year because I was “sick.” In reality, I was depressed by and frightened of the school I was attending. The next year, that hellhole was shuttered we moved to a brand new campus with a good principal and I made a miraculous recovery!

  • Jim Mordecai

    Cranky Teacher Says:

    We disagree on this one. The 10th amendment leaves to the states education. Kids will be sick. I don’t get why money should be taken from the school. The school has fixed costs and doesn’t get to pick its population if it is a traditional public school.

    I believe it is in the State of New Mexico that the State for enrollment purposes gets a report on attendance and the funding for the year is based on that one report. It makes predicting a budget easier than in California.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Susan

    Why does the OUSD Charter School Office get so much money? They have budgeted over $650,000!! With a staff of five (over 130,000 per staff).

    Is OUSD supporting a charter school? Why so much monies ans staff for this position?

    There are many costs that should be cut before it affects students and this may be one of them.