No, this report was not written by the Oakland Education Association. Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute of Public Policy released it. Researchers found that as California school districts received more money between 2003-04 and 2008-09, they spent a smaller portion of it on teachers, aides and supplies.
If this sounds familiar, it’s an expansion of a report that came out last summer. My colleague Theresa Harrington wrote about it; you can find her story here.
Pop Quiz: Guess the amount that Oakland Unified spent on consultants in 2008-09, per student? A whopping $2,384 out of $12,946, according to the report, compared to $274 per student in Lafayette (the lowest in the East Bay). That’s 18 percent.
For years, the Oakland teachers union has said that the district spends too much on consultants and too little on teachers. In fact, OUSD has violated the legal requirement that unified school districts in California spend at least 55 percent of their budgets on the salaries and benefits of teachers and aides.
I blogged about this last May. In September, the district reported it had fallen short again in 2009-10, spending just 53.26 percent on classroom expenditures — $5.9 million shy of the state requirement. The number of schools in the district (more than 100 for 38,000 students) contributes to the imbalance, as each school must pay for administrative overhead, no matter how small it is.
Another aspect of budgeting that’s particular to Oakland is that school leaders get to choose how to spend their money (See Results-Based Budgeting). If they’d rather hire an outside group to provide services to students or teachers than a full- or part-time staff member, they’re essentially free to do so. And they often do. In other words, some of the consultant expenditures are decided centrally, but not all of them.
Critics of the report, who were quoted in Theresa’s story, note that district budgets have shrunk since the 2008-09 school year, or that districts have cut centrally since then.
I didn’t get a response from OUSD. Troy Flint, the district spokesman, says the financial department is analyzing the report and will have something in a couple of weeks.
You can download the full report here.
UPDATE: If you want to compare Oakland’s numbers to other districts in Alameda County as well as to San Francisco, West Contra Costa, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Jose, check out this two-tab spreadsheet. The first page is sorted alphabetically; the second by the percentage of the budget spent on the classroom, as defined by the Pepperdine researchers.
You’ll see that Los Angeles and Emery school districts spent even more on consultants than OUSD, and that San Francisco spent less of its budget on classroom expenses than Oakland. But the only local district that spent less of its budget on teacher salaries and benefits than Oakland was Berkeley (though Emery and Castro Valley came close).