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Is it time for OUSD’s unusual budgeting system to become policy?

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?

 

Katy Murphy

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

  • J.R.

    Jim,
    I agree, and it also clouds the salary differential as well. Which is not as large as it looks at first glance. My point is, when taken in conjunction with other information collectively is that OUSD has a over-spending problem, a big one(when you compare district budget size and ADA) :

    http://californiaschildren.typepad.com/californias-children/2010/07/the-list-cas-most-fiscally-unsound-school-districts.html

    http://www.sacbee.com/2010/04/29/2715956/interactive-compare-employee-benefit.html?appSession=349260863854567

    http://www.eastbayconservative.com/2008/10/31/oakland-where-property-taxes-soar-and-the-city/

    The taxpayers are about to be taxed again, and still it won’t be enough.

  • Livegreen

    Jim and Alice, Thank you for your further details and explanations. I am just gtg into the financial docs as I see links from the Budget Dept and Strategic Plan pages. I have only started going back through Board minutes. I was hoping to not have to go back as far back as Jim did (thanks Jim).

    Jim, do you have a short cut back?

    Alice, Thank you for your insight.

  • Livegreen

    Alice, Some time ago at a Board meeting you asked that OUSD inform the Board how many schools still have longstanding portables. Did they report back to you &/or the Board w/this info? Or not?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Livegreen:

    I don’t have any short cuts. I use the search engine on the District webpage. But, if that doesn’t work, I’ve sometimes just slim each and every board meeting or sometimes meetings of a subcommittee that doesn’t meet as often as the Board.

    Perhaps a short cut would be directing a specific question to a department head such as asking Mr. Hal for specific information.

    For example, I am curious if the case is that money that the District borrowed from the building fund short term never had to be reported because the timing was such that the money was replaced when the state provided the money it had delayed paying prior to having to file an interim report.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Alice Spearman

    @Jim & Livegreen,
    1. Yes the funding payment was reported in finance committee meeting.Mr. Hal is very transparent! And Yes the portable issue was reported at facilities meeting some time ago. However the number should be shown in in our facilities master plan current report.
    2.Livegreen, now is the time to pay special attention to the finance committee. It will continue thru the next 3 months per board recomendation. Topics will include RBB and the aspects, what site funding may look like in the future, and what autonomy looks like for sites with their budgets.
    It needs to be known that all board committee’s with the exception of Finance and Saftey committees will be suspended for six month per recommendation of Superintendent to Board Leadership, stating it takes too much time from staff and other board members state they want to weigh in on conversations held during meetings. A final reccomendation to board policy will be made in June, 2012. Board meetings now will be more frequent, with special meetings scheduled to accomodate certain issues and will be lengthy! (Bring food and drink)
    The announcements of the special meetings of the Finance Committee and Saftey Committee, (dealing with student matters, will probably meet on a regular basis every other Tuesday mainly in closed session) finannce committee dates will be announced at our Annual Organizational Meeting, January 3, 2012. I am uncertain of the time right now.
    At this meeting there will be elections for board leadership once more. The public may be interested in this item also.

  • Livegreen

    Thanks Jim & Alice. There is one other item you might b able to help me with. Do you know anything about schools with full or near full enrollment having their budgets & per pupil funding cut the past couple years?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Livegreen:

    As ADA funding is over 90% of the District’s income, cuts to that funding would impact school site budgets. School Services of California states: OUSD per student funding ADA as $5,239 in 10-11 and reduction to $4,890 in 11-12. Sorry but my note did not include the source but whether accurate reflects how funding of school sites would be impacted when the State reduces what it pays for ADA.

    I also believe that whatever the figure given, the $6 million on debt and interest is not included in the calculation and that $6 million is subtracted before the State forwards its ADA payment.

    Jim Mordecai