To those who don’t work at schools or compulsively follow education policy, the finer points of school budgeting and resource allocation might sound like painfully dry reading material. But the issue evokes passionate debate in Oakland Unified, which does things differently than most districts.
In other districts, it’s common practice for top administrators to determine the number of teachers and kinds of electives and programs for each school. In Oakland, those decisions are (at least, in theory) made at the school-level through OUSD’s unconventional budgeting system (Results-Based Budgeting, or RBB).
RBB has been in place since 2004, but its principles — including the autonomy mentioned above — are not established in school board policy, said David Kakishiba, who chairs the board’s Finance and Human Resources Committee.
“A couple of changes in school board members, and all that can get crushed in an instant,” he said, noting that the system is also subject to the philosophy of each district administration. (Former interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor was not a fan.)
Kakishiba has proposed the creation of an ad-hoc school board committee to come up with a policy recommendation for school budgeting by March. The committee would not prescribe a certain allocation funding allocation formula or determine whether schools should pay the actual salaries and benefits of their teachers, as they do now.
Rather, he said, it would determine whether to etch into stone “a set of autonomies, including the budget process.”
This is a big sticking point for ASCEND and Learning Without Limits. The teachers and principals at those two East Oakland elementary schools, which were created with the promise of having autonomy over funding and staffing decisions, are trying to break away from the school district and become independently run charter schools. Fear of losing such autonomies, they said, was one of the main reasons for doing so.
Why create an ad-hoc committee? Because the board’s Finance and HR committee — and all other standing committees — is being suspended as part of the school board’s reorganization. To allow all seven members to have the same access to information on finances, facilities, personnel and safety, the board will instead hold a monthly workshop to delve into those issues.
Here’s how the item read in last night’s committee agenda:
Adoption by the Board of Education, of recommendation from Finance and Human Resources Committee, establishing a Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting and for said Committee to present a policy recommendation on subject matter to the Board not later than second Regular Meeting of the Board, March, 2012.
If the committee is created, what would you advise it to do?