Throughout the contract dispute with the school district, Oakland teachers have pointed out not only how well (or poorly) they are paid, but how much of the district’s budget is devoted to their paychecks.
By law, unified school districts in California must spend at least 55 percent of their expenses on the salaries and benefits of classroom teachers and instructional aides. For elementary school districts it’s 60 percent; for high school districts it’s just 50 percent.
Oakland Unified fell short in 2008-09, as the union was quick to note. The data originally submitted to the state erroneously showed 56 percent, which is above the requirement, but it’s actually just below 52 percent*, said district spokesman Troy Flint.
According to this spreadsheet of unaudited data I requested from the California Department of Education (which reflects the inaccurate, higher number in OUSD), about 17 percent of all school districts in the state spent a smaller portion of their budgets on teachers than state law requires. Only about 6 percent of the state’s unified school districts did so, though — at least, by this accounting — and just 14 other unified school districts in the state (including San Francisco Unified) spent below 52 percent of their budgets on teacher compensation that year.
I broke out the percentages reported in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which you can find on the third tab.
Flint said the number of small schools in Oakland is one reason for the low percentage, as they have administrative overhead, and noted that Superintendent Tony Smith plans to close at least 20 schools within the next year or two. (Some of the small schools are the products of an ambitious reform strategy, while others have shrunk as enrollment has declined.)
In case you missed it, Bob Gammon made a case for closing schools in his East Bay Express column last week, and the union has suggested merging a small number of schools. Do you think that’s the way to go? If not, how else do you think OUSD do it?
NOTE: *Flint said the Alameda County Office of Education’s much-cited estimate for OUSD’s classroom compensation — 45 percent — is too low:
As for why the 45 percent figure gained currency, it’s probably because it’s based on a cursory assessment the County did for the 2008-09 adopted budget – not the actual budget. When the county does these assessments they are “at-a-glance” and advisory. Notably, they don’t look at what are called “overrides” or exclusions from the basic formula which is why the figure can often be lower, especially in districts with as many special allocations as OUSD.