Big meeting in Oakland Unified to discuss grim budget outlook

Gov. Jerry Brown has given up on getting a tax extension on the June ballot. Now what?

No official budget projections had been released as of this afternoon, but two Oakland school board members said today that they have been told California school districts might face cuts of $800 to $850 per student — when most schools in Alameda County have budgeted for a per-student loss of $349. The California School Boards Association posted this budget alert, explaining what an all-cuts budget would mean, given the remaining deficit of $15.4 billion.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the Oakland school board holds a special meeting to plan for the 2011-12 budget and to give Superintendent Tony Smith direction on how to close a budget gap that could be $18 million larger than expected, said school board member David Kakishiba, who is drafting an agenda for the meeting.

His question: “With these additional cutbacks from the state, do we move that cut to the school sites or do it a different way?”

I asked Kakishiba about the proposal, floated by several people I’ve interviewed, to freeze professional development funding next year. He said that will be up for discussion on Wednesday, along with what to do with an extra $10 million the district has in its reserves (an accounting issue related to a sum of money the state said it was giving schools in 2010-11, but hasn’t yet) and the $8 million it has set aside for audit findings. There is also $3 million left in the state loan, which the district could use to help make its $6 million annual debt payment to the state (yes, on the same loan).

Kakishiba said the board is seeking clarity on the number of K-12 layoffs that will be necessary based on four factors: early retirements, the number of teaching positions cut at schools in the Results-Based Budgeting process, the dismissal — or “non re-election” — of untenured teachers, and the number of temporary teachers.

(Note: The 657 potential layoff notices issued in Oakland Unified don’t correspond with the cuts made in budgeting process at individual schools. District officials said they issued that many notices to prepare for the loss of $900 per student; Spokesman Troy Flint said a reduction of that magnitude would bring all class sizes to contract maximums.)

The meeting is expected to run for at least three hours, with public comment to follow staff presentations, he said.

What do you think the board should do?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Ms. J.

    I would be happy to give up the during-the-school year buyback days if that would go towards handling the deficit. I CERTAINLY hope that no outside consultants will be paid next year and I’m willing to take the pay cut that will go with a reduction or elimination of PD days within the school year, given the extremity of the crisis but with the caveat that we really must demand their reinstitution when we are once again in the black. (One of the points that Darling-Hammond made on Monday was that in other countries with more successful education systems teachers have much more collaboration time built into every week, without extending their working hours.)

    HOWEVER if these proposed cuts would include all days before the beginning of school (as I heard a rumor it might), I am adamantly opposed. I, like many other teachers, spend weeks of my summer vacation making plans for the coming year as it is; in addition, I spend at least forty hours in the classroom getting it ready, in major (moving desks which we are required to push aside at the end of the school year back into place) and minor (putting up bulletin board borders) ways, all of which combine to create the nurturing classroom environment which will enable me to provide a safe and effective learning space for my students. I enjoy the time I spend in the classroom in this way, and I don’t spend a lot of time wishing I got paid for the extra work. But if the school district says, as I understand it did a few years ago, that the first work day of the year will be the first school day, I will be outraged. I would strike over this. I might QUIT over this.

    My husband, who tires of my rants, suggests that, if this occurs, I should simply go into school on the first day and set up while the kids are there. Although I understand the point he is making, what I have tried to make him understand is that the people who would feel the pain of this move would not be anyone downtown but rather my students and myself. Given the upheaval we can expect, with possible bumpings rendering each school’s staff unstable at the end of the year, not to mention the fact that we will probably be having to fit in several more desks and chairs, it would not actually be POSSIBLE for us to set up on the first day of school. Much less play name games, establish classroom norms, and begin to build the trust and friendship which will be the foundation on which the year’s learning is based.

    Obviously, the district people know this, and by establishing the first day of school as the first official work day they would be doing so under the assumption that the majority of teachers will go in earlier to get the classrooms ready, and that the district would simply not have to pay us for that work.

    It may be that the rumor of such a cynical, exploitative move is entirely unfounded. I hope so. But if someone is considering it, I hope s/he seriously reflects on the message that it will send the teachers in the schools–the same teachers whom Dr. Smith lauded at Darling-Hammond’s talk for taking on the complex, challenging work of teaching. Smith says he wants to build a relationship of trust with the teachers of Oakland. If he is sincere he will assure us that we will have time before the start of school next fall to make our classrooms ready to receive our new students.

    And he could take a pay cut while he’s at it.

  • Salt

    Right! He take a cut? C’mon! Its typical liberals- lots of lip service as long as its not him!

  • Oakland Teacher

    #2 comment is a red herring. Mayor Quan is as liberal as they come and she took at 25% pay cut immediately upon entering office. I saw a packet that principals has prepared on ways to deal with the budget crisis, and they suggested a furlough. Although I know they work really hard, I wonder what direct sacrifices they are going to make, or if it is only going to be students and teachers (and support staff).

    Thanks Ms J for your thoughtful post above. I couldn’t agree more.I did see teachers do just what you said on a year that we were not paid to ready our classrooms, and while impressed with their resolve, could not do that myself. I would also strike over that time.

  • Cranky Teacher

    If California doesn’t want to pay, we at some point have to talk about a shortened school year.

    Unless you change the laws and redo all the contracts, at some point there are limits to cuts.

  • thetruthhurts

    I guess for me, I just hope people face “the truth” before it blindsides them into oblivion.

    Essentially, it’s in the voters hands and they are still an apathetic bunch. We haven’t yet reached Greece type reactions, but we in fact (in California) are fiscally the same as Greece.

    Austerity? No one is using that word in California, but that is exactly what is coming if the voters don’t approve something to generate revenue.

    Greece didn’t want to get creative. People have “entitlements” ya know. We’ll see how well entitlements work when there is no money and you can’t borrow. I applaud Jerry for wanting to stop the BS and games, but it’s gonna hurt, and yes, it will leave a mark.

    We’ll see California’s priorities over the new 12-18 months. It doesn’t look pretty at the moment. A generation of children and the future success of California hang in the balance.

    Little ‘ol Oakland just has the displeasure of already being financially screwed before this financial tsunami came calling. Folks can cling to a bygone reality if they want to, but remember – TheTruthHurts.

  • Starshaped

    I would consider furloughs only if Dr. Smith takes a HUGE pay cut. Like $100,000 pay cut. I barely make it month to month on my teacher salary now that I’m a homeowner in Oakland. I invested everything I have into this district and if the top can’t handle a cut, why should I? And Oakland Teacher is right, throwing around the liberal term is a red herring. Brown cut all sort of perks that he shoulders too (like flying coach and paying for his own cell phone). Smith is a ‘progressive’ which is just double speak for conservative in liberal clothing.

  • http://girlsmovingforward.com Lacy Asbill

    I think that now is the time to take a HARD look at the number of schools in OUSD. Can’t we still support students’ educational needs well with a reduced number of school sites? It seems much more sensible to provide a smaller number of quality schools with appropriate budgets to run successfully than to continue to fund an exorbitant number of schools on a shoestring budget.

    Hello Gates Foundation–another $5M grant would be helpful right now if you really believe in the small schools movement…

  • OUSD Teacher

    Tony Smith($350,000.00) is the highest paid superintendent
    in Alameda County. OUSD teachers are the lowest
    paid teachers in Alameda county. Tony makes more
    money than the Vice President of the United States.
    The audacity of the OUSD school board to pay one person
    an enormous salary!

  • Katy Murphy

    Tony Smith’s salary was less than $300,000, last I checked. I posted it, along with other supe salaries/benefits, last spring, and I don’t think it’s gone up.

  • J.R.

    OUSD is one of the most problematic districts in the state(along with LAUSD), and the teachers are the lowest paid because there are a lot of schools with staff and teachers in comparison to other districts.


    I agree though, all these administrators are way overpaid!

    When you have janitors in some districts who make 50K+ per year(solely because he has to be paid a living wage, and for no other reason) you end up with everyone being overcompensated. Economy of scale……

  • Can’t believe it

    What are you Oakland teachers thinking? Of course you will take furlough days just like so many other Districts. You will truly be a laughing stock if you strike over that given the depth and breadth of the State budget deficit. Who isn’t hurting in education? I get the anger and of course you are right that you will work just as hard but this time without pay. but there is no choice except further layoffs and massive classes. This will push the trend toward online education.

    By the way, those protests in Britain, Portugal and Greece didn’t work…

  • livegreen

    If you look at the OUSD Board Working Session (or whatever they called it)on Facilities you will see:
    a) Dr. Smith has some good plans for putting all Facilities to work;
    b) However the Board member’s question him about how he plans to pay for it?
    c) In part they want to lease to non-profits & Charter schools;
    d) They will go into more detail at the Wed. April 6th Board meeting on the Budget. Should be very interesting…

  • livegreen

    BTW, the video and Powerpoint for the recent special Board meeting on OUSD’s on Facilities & how it fits into the Strategic Plan can be found here:


    It’s worth viewing both the video & Powerpoint and a good lead-up to the Budget meeting…

  • aly

    @cantbelieveit: as an oakland teacher, i am thinking i’d take a cut before i took furlough days, although both options are insults to the already insulting pay we make for our work. i would take the cut for the same reason many other teachers have posted on other threads: we are all going to suffer under next year’s budget, but i would sooner bear the brunt of that than make my kids suffer, too. having fewer days of school is not going to magically make standards disappear, and so i’d rather not have the extra complication of less time with the same amount of material. we barely make it through everything as it stands, now.

    and as far as ms. j’s thoughts- my husband, a non-educator, makes the same pleas for me because he is trying to defend my dignity. however, i feel the same as you, and it harks back to my first paragraph: it is not fair to make our students anymore the victim of this adult-based nonsense than they are already going to be. it presents a real problem for me; my desire to leave my kids out of this means i will go set up regardless of getting paid, because that’s what teachers do for their kids. at the same time, i think it’s the selflessness of many teachers that leads to us being treated like non-entities because we can just be guilted into “doing it for the kids”. it makes it so difficult to take a stand and make the point in the manner your husband suggested because while that seems to be the only way we can get through the heads of people who control our pay, it is beyond unfair for our students.

    more than anything, i am supremely disappointed in our state legislature for thinking they must control this decision rather than letting it be made by the people who pay the taxes. it is a crime against democracy and deserves far more outrage than it seems to be getting.

  • Communist Parent

    The working people of oakland and the teachers should look at the fact that the racist wealthy elite in California and the country can not be appealed to on rational grounds. The Democrats and Republicans are political parties that look to represent the interests of those elites and they only “invest” money in public education to the degree they get a “return”. How can we expect a system that puts some many in prison, disproportionally black and brown, a system that has no jobs or minimum wage jobs on offer to tens of millions more, to put money in education? What we need is quality education, free for all, from pre-school through college. What we need is full employment, at wages we can live on. The only way we are going to get it, is by fighting for it. I predict that the nation wide protests Monday, like the one last week in LA and before that in Wisconsin, will show both in numbers and spirit from the everyday working people a desire to fight. The main obstacles to that spirit becoming a reality are the illusions in the Democratic party, and the racial and ethnic hostilities among working people. To overcome these obstacles requires building a working class party that struggles to unseat the current misleaders of the unions and win workers to a class struggle program to unite all sectors of the working class and poor in a struggle against the political/economic (capitalist) system that exploits and oppresses us.

    I am a parent of an Oakland Public school student. I have lived in Oakland for almost 15 years. I have seen the teachers strike before and I know the support they can receive from the much of the population here. I also now the treachery of the union leaders and their Democratic Party “friends”. For the teachers to win they need to ditch the misleaders and phony friends and appeal directly to the ranks of the other unions. All working people are under attack and we all want quality education for our children. The history of our struggles show that we can win!

  • Nextset

    Communist Parent: The first thing I’d take exception to is the notion the black and brown felons are in prison for anything other than their own rampant criminality. Our prison system is a joke and does little to “correct” any of these degenerate criminals. Quite the contrary, we have a revolving door of dull but comfortable confinement prior to turning them loose on the public to do more of the same.

    The only racism I see is the racism of low expectations, starting in the public schools and continuing to the criminal system. What needs to be done is to get rid of the soft on crime legislature, judiciary and executive branch occupants and re-write our state criminal justice system with a strong nod to what works in Singapore, Malaysia and similar Asian systems: Severe Corporal Punishment especially for juveniles and recividist adults, no mail or visitors in prison except by rare invitation of the warden, and lots of hard labor with rationed and metered education. Think of it as Delancey Street with a whipping post.

    As far as your Communist garbage – what makes you think a philosophy that failed everywhere can succeed here, even if we tolerated it? And how do you reconcile it with our Constitution which limits (federal) government power?

  • Trish Gorham

    Can we agree not to engage with Nextset and its racist rants?

  • Nextset

    Whatsamatter Trish? Can’t debate?

    It’s Okay for a self professed Communist to rant that black folks in prison are victims – but not okay for anyone including me to argue they are not.

    And furthermore you can’t handle an arguement that blacks are victims of a school system – at least the one in the CA Urban Areas of Oakland and maybe LA – that sets them up by mis-education to be unable to cope in the Brave New World, while 3rd world immigrants in the same schools have better outcomes.

    Maybe the immigrants aren’t taught they are victims. They are winning just be being here, learning English and moving on to higher education, industry & military.

    Tell me Trish, are you black? I am. I don’t see things the way you do. Can you handle that?

    This is an education blog – we debate policy. Do you want debate limited to one side that you agree with personally? Please tell us the limits and parameters of your debate notions. I really wish to know.

    OUSD has some of the worst outcomes for black students in the country and that was once not the way things were. OUSD’s results for black students have become much worse in my lifetime. And I don’t think it’s the buildings that are responsible. I took classes at Oakland Tech during summer school. The building and it’s equipment were more lavish & expensive than my regular high school.

    So what do you think is going so wrong now? Or maybe nothing?

    Too bad about the budget and these layoffs, but look at the numbers and the stats for the black students in the last year or two. How much worse can they get, anyway.

  • aly

    nextset- what is so curious about you is how you alternate between seemingly low expectations yourself and the critique of low expectations. there are many posts throughout this blog where you essentially to state that students of color should not be expected to do as well as their white, suburban counterparts, which is a perspective i wholly disagree with. on THIS post, however, you lay the blame on low expectations and i completely agree on that front. an “a” here needs to mean the same thing as an “a” in dublin or we are doing our students permanent damage; we must hold them to the same expectations as students who come from money, education and power, otherwise they will never understand how to get it and/or keep it. it is unwise to lie to our students or take pity on them for coming from difficulty.

    do i agree about black and brown being overrepresented in the prison population solely because of their misdeeds? i’m not as quick to fall in line with you on that one. there is, unfortunately, a difference in how people with more melanin are treated by police and we are doing ourselves and our youth a disservice if we are not honest about that, as well. this is not to say there is no personal responsibility to be held by many of the people in prison; it is simply that there are clear differences about how the justice system treats people of color when it comes to punishment. what gets me a slap on the wrist can get a darker person years behind bars, and that is disconcerting.

    trish- i’m unclear as to how nextset’s addressing the racism of low expectations is racist. can you elaborate on what upset you so much in post 16? heck, it’s basically a spin on the only darn thing i ever agreed with dubya on: “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

  • Trish Gorham

    Aly- The post @16 was merely the last straw. Perhaps Nextset has inserted the following statements throughout posts to be purposely provocative. But I, personally, will choose to not engage with one that spews them. It may very well be that I’m too sensitive and reading more into it than what’s there, but I find such rhetoric at best a distraction, and at worst a reinforcement of harmful stereotypical thinking. I just don’t have anything to say to someone who believes in caning, in biological exceptionalism, in referring to multi-racial children as hybrids, or who thinks “authentic” black kids can not score well on tests (if that is what “testing white” means). We can have a vigorous debate on policies without the insulting language.

    Nextset’s quotes:

    “While it would be wonderful I suppose if the minority youth woke up one morning and stopped performing as minority youth …

    All you have to do … is move in some Jewish and Asian kids and get the black and brown kids to not show up for a few tests. Bingo, you have a miracle of Gap Narrowing! Or maybe you just change the classification of all the Carly Simons, Carol Channings, and the rest of the hybrid students to “black”.

    So I’m not amused by the constant attempts to say any given school has found the secret to making authentic black kids test white.

    There is reason to believe and many psychometricians do believe the “Gap” is as much biological as anything else, nature rather than nurture.

    I suppose you want the black (group) scores to test out as something other than black. Good luck with that.

    Gouging “the rich” so we can continue to feed/clothe/house and medically treat drug addicts, mental defectives and criminals and their rapidly reproducing broods is just going to hasten Civil War II.

    Severe Corporal Punishment especially for juveniles and recividist adults, no mail or visitors in prison except by rare invitation of the warden, and lots of hard labor with rationed and metered education. Think of it as Delancey Street with a whipping post.”

  • Oakland Teacher

    Trish, I have made the same request before re engaging in discussion with someone who spews the same rhetoric for every discussion.

    I would be honored to officially sign on as refusing to engage in “its racist rants.”

  • Nextset

    Aly: An Interesting post.

    What is your experience with the Ca criminal justice system exactly? Am I to trust your experience over mine – what is that experience?

    As far as students of color not being expected…

    Well, once upon a time at OUSD black students were expected to do better and did so. Are you claiming urban schools such as OUSD expects black students to do well? And what do they do when black students engage in problematic behaviors (at a rate higher than Asians for example)?

    Black students are what they are. The issue I see is the low expectations some people have of them and the refusal to enforce standards. As far as IQ and academic performance, we have a ton of stats collected by this Brave New World. It is what it is. Now what are we to do about placement of black students into society? Force them all to take college prep until half drop out and the rest tune out?

    You do no one any favors by refusing to deal with reality before reality deals with you and yours.

    Perhaps you would celebrate further efforts to increase high school graduation requirements. I suppose you’d champion efforts to raise minimum wage to $15. While you are at it, let’s increase the requirements for all the state occupational licenses.

    Because after all, you believe all people are created equal, so doing all these things isn’t discriminatory.

    Good luck with that.

    Your racism silliness is just a fig leaf for your damaging the black students and leaving them with nothing in the Brave New World. That’s how I see it. Your (Liberal) plolicy requires a belief that black students – or any other group such as the Mexicans – can be forced to behave as if they were white (with enought money being spent and rules passed).

    Save us from white liberals.