A crash diet for Oakland schools


Update: If your software is stuck in the early 2000s, as mine is, and you had trouble opening the budget proposal, try this version. (It takes longer than usual to load; I almost gave up when testing it out.)

Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith’s proposal to cut next school year’s budget by $39 million includes deep cuts to central services — 74 positions eliminated out of 734 — and several one-time budget plugs totalling $8 million.

As promised, about two-thirds of the reductions would come from the central office and sources other than K-12 school budgets.

I should note, however, that some of those “central” cuts aren’t that far removed from the students.

This will all be discussed at Wednesday’s board meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.

One-time fixes: about $8 million

The district would use $2 million of its nearly-exhausted state loan to help pay off the same state loan — a practice it has done in the past, but on which it can’t lean any longer. Other one-time budget plugs include $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds and a $3 million accounting maneuver with the adult education program reserve.


  • The district’s 100-plus schools would each receive about 5 percent less in per-student funding than they do this year ($7.54 million).
  • Closing BEST and Paul Robeson high schools in June, rather than continuing with their planned phase-outs and subsidies, will save OUSD an estimated $1.4 million.
  • Adult education: $4.5 million, about 40 percent of its existing budget
  • Central services – $10.7 million. About 74 positions would go, including 14 from professional/curriculum development; 15 custodians and grounds workers; 21 from business, personnel, data management and school leadership and 17 school security officer positions.

What is your take on Smith’s proposal? What else did you notice?

Note: You might have trouble opening the budget presentation. It’s a large file, and I couldn’t access it on one of my computers. It’s also posted on Page 4 of the agenda.

Image from FL4Y’s photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • Gordon Danning


    The powerpoint on the agenda appears to be a Microsoft Office 2007 file — the extension ends in “x” I think you need the 2007 version of Office to open it – I know that our computers at school cannot open Word 2007 files. Can you post a copy that has been saved as an earlier version of Word?

    PS: Here’s a suggestion for OUSD to save money: stop spending money on Microsoft Office products, and use Open Office instead; it is free, and is fully compatible with pre-2007 Microsoft Office, as well as WordPerfect. We have Open Office on our school’s computers, so why doesn’t downtown use it?

  • Katy Murphy

    Ah, that explains it! I’m afraid I can’t help. While I was able to add the link from my home computer, I can’t actually open it at home or at work. The board secretary faxed me a hard copy. I’ll ask if it can be saved as an earlier version of Office and re-posted.

  • David

    How about an even better suggestion–capping pension benefits and retiree health care benefits. Social Security and Medicare are “good enough” for the rest of us, how about government workers too?

    Curriculum development? My Lord, how much money has been wasted on that? How about just teaching the students to, I don’t know, READ? Maybe some simple math. We’re not asking much, and heaven knows we’re not getting jack.

  • Gordon Danning


    Teachers do not pay into Social Security; we (and the District) pay into the State Teachers Retirement System instead. Any change would have to be made at the state level, and I dont think it would make a difference to the District bottom line.

    As for curriculum development, it is very valuable (though much is not as good as it might be). I, and my students, have benefited greatly from professional development that I have attended re: reading and writing. For example, a reading inservice that we had (using an outside consultant) gave me a strategy that I use to help students understand complex materials. Without it, I’m not sure how I could ask students who are do speak English at home to analyze the ideas of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau.

  • Katy Murphy

    I’ve posted a new version of the budget cuts presentation, courtesy of our tech guru. It takes a minute or so to load, though, since the file is so large.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I was able to open it now, thanks.

    It’s a pretty depressing read, although I’m not saying the cuts are unfairly distributed.

    However, it only really gives insight into how cuts will affect certain classified staff service areas — custodians, security, tech support and buildings/grounds — and not how the site-based budgeting cuts will affect teachers, aides and other specialists covered by SBB.

    Katy, or anybody: Can you explain what the $350 million in restricted funds does? I assume that is set asides for new construction, liability, rainy day funds? Seems like a lot to be untouchable in a time of crisis…

    Remember, folks, these cuts are not from the fat on a thickly marbled slice of Kobe beef — this is from a budget that was already lean and gamy…