This week in OUSD: school budgeting, use-of-force policy and enrollment

The Oakland school board’s committees are discussing some important things this week. I figured some of you might want to weigh in on these items before they come before the full board. You can find a list of upcoming meetings and download the agendas here.

Regional bus tourTONIGHT: At 5 p.m., the Teaching and Learning Committee goes over a revised work plan for realizing the superintendent’s vision for the school district. They’ll talk about task forces, regional leadership teams (NEXOs are out; REXOs are in), and other elements of the strategic plan. The committee will also do a more detailed test score analysis with the district’s new data toy, visualization motion charts.

At 6:30 p.m., the Finance and Human Resources Committee is reviewing Results-Based Budgeting, a system that 1) specifies how funds are to be allocated to schools (currently, by each school’s average student attendance), and 2) allows principals and (in theory) school councils to decide how to spend those funds.

In most other districts, staff in the central HQ decide how many teachers a school needs and then allot enough funding to cover their pay, based on the average teacher’s salary in that district. Oakland Unified does it differently. Actual salaries at each school come out of that school’s budget; the principal then uses what’s left over to cover other costs.  This gives school leaders more say in how large their class sizes will be, for example; it also requires them to make difficult staffing decisions and other trade-offs during budget cuts.

Matt Hill, a former OUSD staffer and Broad fellow, wrote a favorable report about the history and implementation of the reform (known as RBB) that was published in 2008 by the Center for American Progress. Critics, however, argue the system discourages principals from hiring experienced — and therefore higher-paid — teachers. Results-Based Budgeting also rewards schools with larger enrollments and higher attendance, which has made it tough for schools with very small and/or declining enrollment to make ends meet.

The committee will also review the district’s enrollment count on Day 20 — which included 3,000 more students than the Day 1 count. Essentially, it means about 8 percent of OUSD students missed the first day of school. (More on enrollment later; I’m trying to clarify some questions I had with the numbers).

TUESDAY: At 4:30 p.m., the Facilities Committee will continue its conversation about the capacity and use of the district’s facilities. You might recall an earlier asset management study that showed the district was under-utilizing its property. How OUSD decides to address that issue, of course, has significant implications for students and families. Does it close schools that have lots of extra room? Does it lease the space to local nonprofits or agencies?

File photo by D. Ross Cameron/TribuneAt 6 p.m., the Safety Committee meets. On the agenda is the Oakland School Police Department budget (which was not posted as of this morning) and its operations manual.

Maybe someone will provide examples of “pain compliance techniques” (Page 28) in its use-of-force policies. The manual says these techniques “may be very effective in controlling a passive or actively resisting individual,” but that the officer should consider alternatives in some cases, such as for passive demonstrators, “if time permits.”

WEDNESDAY: At 5 p.m., the Intergovernmental Relations Committee decides what to do about AC Transit’s switch to the Clipper card. I wrote about the messy transition last week; you can read the story here.

Katy Murphy

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