For Oakland school employees, a possible 2 percent raise

Oakland school district staff have built a 2 percent raise for all district employees into the 2011-12 budget projections, an increase that they say will cost $2 million.

At the same time, the district plans to cut its expenses by $12 million — at least, initially, according to a presentation to the board’s Finance & Human Resources Committee by Deputy Superintendent Vernon Hal. (Watch his presentation here, under 11-0123.)

Troy Flint, the district spokesman, said principals were asked this week to prepare budgets for next year with 7 percent less — an improvement from the 15 percent cut mentioned before winter break. He said layoffs were a possibility, but that nothing had been determined.

Betty Olson-Jones, the Oakland teachers union president, said the raise was “sorely deserved.” But given the fiscal climate in California, she said, she is concerned it might result in larger class sizes.

Hal said at last week’s committee meeting that he built raises into the budget in response to the school board’s budget priorities, to be approved by the school board tonight: 1) improve teacher retention 2) eliminate the structural deficit and 3) increase employee compensation.

STATE BUDGET CONTEXT: Even though Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to keep education funding flat, that hinges on a temporary tax extension that has to make it onto the June ballot and then be approved by voters — as well as other spending cuts that Brown proposed to non-education programs. But the results of the election and the details of the final state budget won’t be known until months after the March 15 deadline to notify teachers of a possible layoff.

OAKLAND’S PLAN: So the Oakland school district is preparing for the worst. It plans to cut $12 million in general purpose funds for 2011-12 and continue using $4.5 million of adult education funds for K-12 programs. Meanwhile, the district will likely also prepare a better-case scenario budget that adds many of the cuts back in.

Do you think the raises should go through? Should they apply to all district employees, including upper management? Do you agree with the three budget priorities, or would you set them differently?

Katy Murphy

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

  • oakland teach

    As a kindergarten teacher with 27 kinders this year I would prefer not to get a raise if it meant less students in my class. I can not give my students the individual support they need to be successful. I leave school every day feeling like a failure because I only manage to teach 1/2 of what I plan.
    Behavior problems, lack of physical space, lack of materials(most curriculum has enough supplies for 20 students) lack of administrative support( I am reprimanded for sending students to the office and am not given the extra supplies I need), and my students’ many emotional needs make this impossible!

    I would even take a pay cut is it meant having 20 students.

  • Bones

    This math is fishy. A 2% raise costs $2MM? That means that district employees only make $100MM today. OUSD’s annual budget is $500MM. What gives?

  • Gordon Danning

    The math DOES seem a little off. The OUSD website says that the district employs 4800 people. $2 million = an average increase of $416.66 per person. That is 2 percent of $20,800 — that can’t be the average salary of a district employee.

  • Katy Murphy

    The unrestricted general fund, where the bulk of the salaries comes from, is about half that. But still, it does sound low.

  • livegreen

    If individual schools have to make very large cuts, that might mean laying off teachers.
    So is it increasing pay vs. laying off staff, even if it’s not advertised as such.

    Also I know cuts at OUSD HQ was the focus in the last round, but there r still a ton of consultants down there (many focused on the Strategic Plan). Is there no way to trim HQ Administration further?

    We need additional #s and answers to clear up all these questions.

  • Oakland Teacher

    We should not have to choose between a raise and having decent teaching/learning conditions. That is why the union keeps saying that the money is there; it’s a question of priorities. According to this article, the 2% will cost $2 million. How many millions do we spend on consulting contracts? Probably many times that amount.

    That said, I am with #1 Oakland Teach in that if forced to choose between smaller class size/having materials and the approximately $50 a month that a 2% raise would bring, it is an easy choice. I would rather do without the money than my students have even more substandard learning conditions. Regardless, the yearly exodus of teachers from OUSD will continue. Fortunately, we have many unemployed recent college grads and laid off professionals to take their places. It’s a good thing that the experts have determined that experienced credentialed teachers are no better than inexperienced and uncredentialed (sorry, but an intern credential is not real, just legal) teachers.

    Having such a large class (27!) for Kindergarten is outrageous, and then no administrative support for behavior sounds like a set up for student failure. You can bet that isn’t happening in schools with a strong parent presence; the principal would not get away with that.

  • http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us Troy Flint

    A couple points about the proposed two-percent raise I should have made to Katy when we first discussed this issue:

    1. The raises, if implemented, would not take effect until January 2012, which is one reason why the budget impact for the 2011-12 fiscal year would be just $2 million. Over a full year, the two-percent raise would cost roughly $4 million.

    2. The other issue is that the $2 million figure refers only to those monies which would come from the unrestricted general fund. The overall cost would be larger, but the difference would be borne by restricted resources.

    3. As for the number of employees, it’s important to note that, as of September 2010, we had just over 4,000 full-time equivalents (FTE), a figure that includes all OUSD’s part-time workers. This means that the sum total of paid hours worked by all OUSD employees, full and part-time, is equivalent to that which would be logged by 4,000 full-time employees (excluding overtime). The total number of people working for OUSD as opposed to FTEs is higher than 4,000 and probably corresponds with the 4,800 figure Mr. Danning mentions.

    I should also add that as I write this, the idea of a 2-percent raise is being met with something less than overwhelming approval by the Board. So, people shouldn’t get the impression that this is a done deal.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the additional information, Troy. The total annual cost of the raises — restricted and unrestricted — would be helpful. So far in the presentation (which is still happening), I haven’t heard a number.

    Speaking of board reaction, here’s what Alice Spearman said tonight: “If I’m doing all this cutting, and I’m getting ready to affect the classroom, I’m not giving anybody any raises, I’m sorry.”

    Speaking of cuts: Tony Smith and Vernon Hal said that after reducing central services by 25 percent in the last round of reductions, most of the cuts for 2011-12 will come out of the money that’s allocated to schools.

  • http://aol.com About to Retire

    Well, Swun math was $6M/yr…. and teachers couldn’t emiphasize rote math facts? That could have been a sweet raise :)


  • Katy Murphy

    Wasn’t Swun about $2 million, total?

  • Cranky Teacher

    About to Retire: I have no idea if Swun was worth it, but when kids aren’t learning math I can understand the desire to throw some money at curriculum. I know math instruction is a travesty at my school — and the test scores show this.

    As for Alice Spearman, that is a silly statement. Salary affects the classroom directly, through recruitment and retention of teachers. It seems like she just speaks before she thinks, sometimes, maybe to sound tough.

    Don’t give me new textbooks or professional development seminars, give me time to prep, manageable class sizes and strong administrative support. And mental-emotional intervention for depressed, angry students.

  • TheTruthHurts

    @Cranky, “give me time to prep, manageable class sizes and strong administrative support. And mental-emotional intervention for depressed, angry students.” I think these are probably a bit more expensive than textbooks and a seminar or two. Yet, they seem reasonable and appropriate requests.

    If you had to choose/prioritize, how would you? Seems like the cheapest is support, but what does that look like?

  • livegreen

    I go back to the original question I posed, which I do not see Mr. Flint answering:
    If individual schools have to make very large cuts, that might mean laying off teachers. Is this the issue at hand, even if it’s not advertised as such?

    The 7% cuts Principals must prepare for, as Katy reports OUSD is talking about, as well as layoffs are a possibility, seem to mean as much. I mean, how else are the bulk of schools going to be able to cut 7% of their budget? & what does that mean on average in $ terms?

    We need specifics to understand the implications. 7% doesn’t sound like a small chunk of change.

  • Katy Murphy

    And the 7 percent is only in the “unrestricted” general purpose dollars — the amount of money the district provides each school based on its average attendance. Schools have also been asked to make cuts in programs funded by special-purpose dollars.

    Schools will be forced to make do with less money next year, with or without the raises. But a raise would increase the size of those cuts — and, potentially, the number of layoffs.

    On a related note: Even if the state’s tax extension passes in June and K-12 funding in California remains relatively flat, Oakland Unified plans to eliminate its structural deficit by making a $5 million cut. At least, that was the scenario presented last night.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogspot.com maestra

    I would also like to know how much OUSD spends on consultants. In my 8 years there, we had many many many consultants and nothing ever changed.

  • http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us Troy Flint

    @livegreen – No determination has been made on layoffs, but they are a possibility. We’ll know better once we see the results of the RBB budgeting process and the staffing decisions the principals make.

    Realistically, a seven-percent reduction in unrestricted allocations, following on the heels of cuts in previous years, leaves few options. Given this, it’s likely that the budgeting process will result in higher class sizes, which will, in turn, trigger a reduction in force (layoffs).

  • Oakland Teacher

    Funny how we went from Katie’s original posting above, to the board really not buying into any raise, and the raise (we probably won’t get)wouldn’t be until 2012 anyway.

    Why are we keeping open these tiny schools with less than 200 students when there is so little funding available? Why do we keep these schools open and pay a full time principal, secretary, custodian for a school that serves such a small number of students? We all know the advantages of small schools, but some of them are running the district dry. It seems to me like there should be some type of cutoff, e.g. If you have had time to grow the school (5 years) and it is still a microschool, we need to think about the bigger picture and not just one school. One of the small schools that started out as the highest funded (per pupil) from Gates Foundation funding, ended up with the lowest spent per pupil once the Gates money ended. What are we thinking when a school spends the least amount in the district per pupil, but the most $ per pupil for administration? It’s time for the district to take a long, hard, unsentimental look at small schools along with the outside contracts for consultants.

  • Patricia Jensen

    Tony Smith and Vernon Hal referenced a 25% cut to Central Services this year.

    Most people don’t know that the adult education program is housed organizationally under Central Services. So when $12.5 M was transferred from the adult ed program to K-12 for 2010-11, did that show up as a “Central Services” reduction? (Evidently $2.5M was supposed to be given back to adult ed in December.)

    It would be interesting to see what exactly the Central Services reductions were.
    The adult education program was decimated this year and those cuts directly affected students and classes. Two schools were closed. Those reductions were definitely at the site level.

  • former hills parent

    I watched the video and was amazed at how the finance director and his staff could not answer questions about transfer of funds.

  • livegreen

    I do not always agree with Oakland Teacher, but I do here. It’s time to close at least failing charters that don’t have independent financial support. Take the administrative costs and allocate to staffing teachers.
    Patricia Jensen’s comments r also of interest. If Adult Ed was included in the cuts from Central Services, then there is still fat there to trim.

  • Concerned

    I really believe that there can be more cuts to central office as opposed to more cuts at the site level. Teachers and, you can bet, parents are going to be opposed to larger class sizes just to support a raise that is not guaranteed and more consulting work that does not provide any answers to increasing the academic success of our students.

  • J.R.

    Former Hills Parent,
    Do you think it is a question of couldn’t answer, or wouldn’t answer? I wonder too.

  • J.R.


    Everyone needs to take a very close look at how administrative positions are cut(and this happens in many districts BTW)unfilled positions are considered cuts, and many times they do not actually cut a person but they move them somewhere else(classroom,maintenance,HR etc)within the district. Net gain is a big fat zero, but they will insist there was a 10% cut at the administrative office anyway. It’s all BS, watch for it.

  • livegreen

    JR, I know what you mean, as that’s how the City Council managed many of the cuts to the City’s general fund in past years (that and moving as many CEDA, library and other costs over to the Redevelopment Fund, thereby cutting the amount of that money available to make Oakland a better place to live).

    Back to OUSD, I think we need to shed a detailed light on this and other areas. For example, everybody always talks about how much teachers earn compared to other counties in Alameda (far less). What we don’t hear about is a) How about comparisons at the Central Office staff level?; b) Balanced on a per capita basis for what Oakland taxpayers can afford? ie. Oakland earn less per capita than residents of San Francisco and other surrounding cities, and is therefor pertinent to the amounts we pay our Public Employees.

    Finally, what is the ratio of personnel and expenses between money spent on managing the district and money spent on teaching (OUSD’s core mission)?

    Katy and Troy, details please so we can have an intelligent discussion, make sure the District is making intelligent decisions, and that teaching to our kids remains the goal. Not Administration as an excuse for a jobs program. (& to be clear, I’m not talking about teachers here).

  • J.R.

    I agree with you,another unknown stat that would be helpful is to find out if we have too many teachers, and admin due to the small school implementation.Read this it is an interesting look at the problem:


  • Gordon Danning


    I don’t get how the per capita income of Oakland is relevant, given that most school funding comes from the state, and is distributed on a per pupil basis. If Walnut Creek has 20,000 students and Oakland has 20,000 students, they get about the same amount of money and hence can pay their employees about the same amount — even though the residents of WC make more money than the residents of Oakland.


    I don’t understand your argument re: unfilled positions. If a government agency has 2 secretaries one year, and the next year has 1 secretary and 1 unfilled secretarial position, then it has fewer employees and is spending less money. Why does it matter who fills the position?

  • http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us Troy Flint

    @livegreen and @j.r. – I’m working with people within OUSD to produce some accessible documents that will better show the scope and impact of last year’s cuts as well as how consultant money is spent. I hope to place something on the website by the end of next week. I’ll post the link here once I do.

  • J.R.

    The point is all about transparency, and truth in numbers. In the past few years some teachers unions(who have had many teachers laid off) have investigated the district office and found that while they claimed to have cut(and it appears that they did)they have actually hired some people. This would provide cushion for later layoffs, and so forth. If you have ever played “Three Card Monty” this is the game, and it is far worse than principals hiding teaching positions because principals are doing what they have to do to give the kids the best teachers right in front of them, they deserve it and to hell with what the adults want. The taxpayers and their kids deserve the largest chunk of tax money directly to their education, and I really don’t think they are getting it.

  • livegreen

    Troy, That would b great. Using the clarity of facts will help the discussion. Of course some facts will still be subjective, such as whether compensation is too little, enough or too much. Then there is, of course, what the budget determines we can actually afford.

    But at least with clarity of real #s we can avoid trading most accusations of hidden agendas and backroom politics (like the city is now experiencing on addressing their deficit and also safety issues).

  • J.R.

    Thanks Troy,
    That sounds great, and I would love to know where we stand financially.

  • Turanga_teach

    If this measly 2% is the reason that my school is looking at making a 7-15% budget cut (which might cost us a teaching position and turn multiple single-grade classrooms into combos in order to disperse the students to absorb the loss)…then I for one don’t want it.

    It’s an insultingly small band-aid on too big a wound, and the adults aren’t the only ones bleeding right now.

  • Craig Gordon

    Here’s a question for Troy Flint, since he’s providing responses here:
    I’m hearing that cuts to site budgets will range up to 17% in some cases. Is that accurate?

  • Public School Teacher

    I get it. Lay off teachers, increase class size and give the existing teachers a raise to compensate for the ever increasing class size they will experience. This is the real story. Thanks OUSD…try to be more honest with the public and your personnel.

  • Ms. J.

    I read that Michelle Rhee’s interim replacement in DCPS believes one effective teacher with forty students can do a better job than two less effective teachers with twenty teachers each. Forty students. Can you imagine? I’m not even clear on what kind of classroom she is thinking of. 24 in first grade is pretty much straining it.

  • Turanga_teach

    One effective teacher with 40 students might happen for 1 day. The remaining 179 days would involve one ineffective teacher hating herself and her students for things outside of everyone’s control.

    I taught kindergarten for four years with increasing class sizes. If your whole class needs their shoes tied, there goes the instructional day.

  • On the Fence

    Well, unpopular though this may be, I wholeheartedly say that the 2% raises should go through. Not only is this money sorely overdue, but I do not believe that forgoing this money will make a lick of difference in the outcome of what OUSD will eventually do to the teachers, classroom sizes, or layoffs. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, is my view.

    OUSD will continue to spend money according to its perceived interest at the moment – new administrative positions to examine how to get parents on board with their latest asinine project, consultants to tell them what teachers are doing wrong now, trainings for all, the latest greatest curriculm developed recently and publicized widely (but later dropped), or maybe dropping big bucks into the creation schools that are large social service, medical, mental heatlh, employment and housing conglomerates, that also hire a few teachers.

    For the record, I am not a teacher or spouse of teacher. I am a taxpayer and parent of 2 OUSD students. I absolutely support more money towards teachers and classrooms, but nary a cent elsewhere. And as others on this blog, my first priority is to the students of OUSD.

  • Oakland Teacher

    #36 makes some very persuasive arguments, even for those of us who are so disgusted with the whole system, fearful of cuts to the classrooms, or shamed into embarrassment that we accept being the lowest paid teachers in the county.

    Thank you for reminding me that they will always find money for whatever they consider a priority, regardless of what they pay school staff. I shudder when I think of all the curriculum adaptations, programs, and bad trainings & feel good workshops over the years. I have refused to do any workshop that takes place overnight, but most of the small schools have done those, sometimes yearly at a great cost to the school/district.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Just a little reality check: In OUSD, the lowest performing schools generally have SMALL class sizes because of declining enrollment, truancy and, sometimes, extra funds such as Title 1.

    I am not saying class size is not important, but it is hardly the only issue or the most important one in terms of what doesn’t work in Oakland.

  • http://www.ousd.k12.ca.us Troy Flint

    @Craig Gordon – This thread is dying out, but I want to respond to Craig’s questions about school site allocations.

    Essentially, what you’re hearing is correct. Some schools could see their allocations reduced in the range of 17 percent due to a number of variables. Those schools are outliers, but they definitely exist.

    The budget cut numbers cited in the advisory to principals were basically global estimates designed to illustrate what an “average” school might be facing, but with our funding methodology, there really is no average school.

    Schools with higher reductions to their funding are usually affected by three variables:

    1. Changes in projected enrollment
    2. Change in per pupil allocations
    3. Additional district support in 10-11 that will not be present in 11-12

    Lower enrollment projections would result in lower allocations and if the District stops filling the gap centrally or reduces its contribution, that further reduces the allocation to an individual site.

    The middle variable is more complex, but per-pupil allocations are expected to decline by 11 percent. There are several resources based on per-pupil funding such as GP, Lottery, Measure G, K-3 Class Size Reduction and TIIG, I think, (need to double-check). Schools that depend more heavily on these resources are disproportionately impacted by the reductions in per-pupil allocations and take a bigger budget hit overall.