A grim budget exercise for Oakland principals

We reported today that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to fund K-12 education at current levels next year — as long as voters approve a measure in a June special election (date TBD) to extend some existing taxes for another five years.

It was a relief to many in the state’s public schools, given the predictions of mid-year cuts and drastic reductions for 2011-12. But even if California voters do approve the tax extension and the Legislature does miraculously pass an on-time budget with current K-12 funding levels, school cuts won’t be over. Districts will soon find themselves without the one-time federal dollars (first stimulus money, then Education Jobs funds) that have cushioned the system from the full brunt of state funding cuts.

Which brings us to Oakland Unified. After cutting $122 million from the district’s budget in the last 30 months, its business office is still projecting a structural deficit of at least $6 million — under the best-case state funding scenario. At a meeting about a month ago, Oakland principals were asked to “consider and prepare for a scenario where their allocations are reduced by 15 percent,” said district spokesman Troy Flint, confirming a rumor I heard recently.

Fifteen percent! Flint said it wasn’t a formal request –or a workshop to draft different budget scenarios — but an advisory to “help set expectations.” As he explains:

It’s part of the preparation process because we don’t want site administrators to be blindsided by late disclosures if we can avoid it. We want to be proactive about sharing news and projections so principals can plan accordingly. Part of that involves being frank about the fact that, last year, 65 percent of the cuts occurred outside the school-based budgeting process and that ratio is unsustainable. As a result, schools will likely be asked to absorb a budget reduction greater than the 5-percent cut they endured last year. How much exactly, will be determined by analysis of the Governor’s current budget proposal, as well as pending decisions regarding the revenue limit and the tax extension measure.

Did any of your schools draft such budget proposals? What was cut?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Cranky Teacher

    I am really confused about something else: Rumors that Title I money is not coming this year from the feds. How could that be? Or maybe it was all just spent in advance at my school to cover previous cuts, so when it arrives it will be already gone…

    I will say this: The many different “buckets” of money and how they are managed and apportioned is a huge source of consternation and mistrust within the system. Teachers feel they can’t get basics yet some parts of the system always seem to have monies for reform initiatives, or outside consultants.

    It is true that having a whiteboard, a heater, or a field trip (with buses!) is not going to fundamentally transform a school. But it is hard for folks to take the draining battle to just secure such basics when they see cycles of pricy reform abandoned midstream for the next magic bullet curriculum, organizational structure or professional development program…

    Then again, everybody has a different perspective on priorities, and mine is from toward the bottom and on the side. Every program is somebody’s baby and has great evidence to support its value. Too bad we are fighting over scraps.

    And certainly downtown has made some real cuts, too. For example, the New Teacher Support budget was cut 70% to basically 1-2 people. Guess you don’t need new teacher support, which is the program to get teachers to a Full Credential, when all we seem to hire is Teach for America kids who get TFA mentoring and/or will quit Oakland before their prelim credential expires!

    This can be a confusing job, but some days my goal seems simple: Don’t quit.

  • Yet Another Oakland Teacher

    15% reduction is probably going to take many schools to bare bones – class room teachers only, no support staff, and classes full to contract maxes, even if it takes multiple combos to do it. We have discussed it at our school and are preparing for the worst, and hoping that, once again, it will not be necessary to cut that much. It is quite disillusioning.

  • SkylineHighSchoolSenior

    Apparently the vice principals at Skyline’s administration still had money to buy iPads!

    Source: http://www.skylineoracle.com/opinion/2010/12/13/ipads-or-iproblems/

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the link. Did the administration ever respond to the story, or explain the expenditure further? (I missed the piece when it came out last month, but I’m now an Oracle subscriber.)

  • theyellowdart

    I have a source VERY VERY CLOSE to the author of the iPad article, and he never heard a response from the administration.

  • Marie

    Wow. How ridiculous. So much for Site based budgeting right? Look what they do. I can guarantee you, that by the end of the year, ipads will go missing! I was working at a school years back that got digital cameras, and after a year, 85% were gone.

    This should come as no surprise in public schools though (those who have worked in them know), waste has always been and theft has always been around.

    By the way, way off topic……I was at the board meeting last night and must say its a shame how this bam group manupulates children! I saw the paner lady in the young girls ear telling her what to say, and then she speaks at the podium about teaching kids critical thinking skills?

    OEA shoulkd be leary of having people like this on their board! Its a shame!

  • Marie

    I meant to say Kapner (I think thats her name)?

  • SkylineHighSchoolSenior

    Hey Katy Murphy,
    Can you please delete my last post with the quote? and this one after that?


  • Ms. McLaughlin

    But SkylineSenior, why? :-)

    I’m in no position to have any opinion on the IPad situation at Skyline. But you have every right to voice YOUR opinions.

    It cheers me up and makes me proud to see a student on the Education blog, speaking your mind and involving yourself in our community. No idea why you want these particular posts deleted, but I hope it doesn’t mean we won’t hear from you again if there’s something on your mind.

    Enjoy your weekend.