THURSDAY UPDATE: You can find the memo here.
A survey of Oakland principals by a local advocacy group found support for the district’s unorthodox, largely decentralized school budgeting system, known as RBB; it also found that one-third of the principals surveyed didn’t feel prepared or equipped to run their entire school budget, as they’re expected to do.
A memo to the superintendent and school board, which contains the survey results and recommendations, was led by Think College Now Principal David Silver and Esperanza (at Stonehurst) Principal Sondra Aguilera. It was staffed by Great Oakland Public Schools, a coalition that supports greater school autonomy, so I would have been surprised if the survey found that principals disliked the model. About half of the OUSD principals completed the survey.
Here is a summary of the findings, straight from the memo:
• 93.3% of principals surveyed value having decision-making authority over their school site’s budget
• 93.1% of principals surveyed responded that if budget cuts have to be made, the principal with the school community should have the primary responsibility for making these decisions
• 86.4% of principals surveyed prefer to have control over the number and type of positions at their schools (principal with community decides staffing instead of according to central office formulas)
• 82% of principals surveyed believe that changes to OUSD’s budgeting system are necessary
• 77.8% of principals surveyed believe that General Purpose dollars should be equitably distributed among all OUSD students
• 67.3% of principals surveyed feel that they have the ability, or are prepared, to completely run their entire site budget, including personnel decisions
The Oakland school district has a different way of dispersing money to its schools than most districts. To put it simply, the district doles out the dollars based on how many children attend each school, on average, each day. The principals, in turn, decide how to spend those funds — whether to hire a part-time librarian, for example, or an extra reading coach. Some schools receive more grant money than others, but you get the idea.
Unlike those in most other areas, Oakland’s schools must cover the cost of their actual salaries and benefits from the money they receive, so schools with newer, cheaper teachers typically have money left over to spend on other things (like extra training for the newbies).
Schools with declining enrollments often struggle under this formula, which the superintendent and the school board plan to tweak in the near future.
As I mentioned yesterday, Silver and a few other principals spoke against the idea of giving schools more or less money based on their average class sizes (and how those sizes compare to the district’s target size). In the memo, they propose creating a floating pool of money into which schools with more than 400 students and/or below-average staff salaries can contribute 1 percent or less of their general purpose funds.
What do you think? I hope to post the whole Word document soon, but I’m dealing with some technical problems.