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.

  • Seenitbefore

    No, it’s not! We should be truly committed to equitable schools and programs across the district such that it doesn’t matter WHAT school you attend in Oakland, you can be guaranteed to find standardized curriculum and programming at EVERY campus. Every school should have adequate instructional staff including a librarian. Every school should have PE. Every school should have art, music, drama and dance. Every school should have a computer lab.

    The way it is now… it just depends upon who your principal is. Schools are destroyed in a matter of a year or 2 when some principal with a “vision” decides that they are going to assert themselves and “make their own mark” by imposing and implementing all of their “new’ unproven ideas and getting rid of whatever the previous administration worked to build. It’s all about personal egos and power.

    Our kids deserve to have equal programming at whatever schools they choose. On top of that… add all the extra stuff you want… but there should be at LEAST a basic grade level program standardization of what a student/family can expect at ANY OUSD school.

  • livegreen

    Was ASCEND built using only foundation money (Gates, Full Circle, etc.)? Or was Facilities Bond money also used? Also, is Facilities Bond money allocated to Charters or only traditional schools?

  • livegreen

    Our school is about 50% Free & Reduced Lunch. We are at maximum capacity, as decided by OUSD. Yet it has NOT given the school money for those extra students. This seems to violate their own explanation which says “Under RBB, public $ follow the student.”

    This seems to violate the spirit if not the letter of RBB. Why is the Board and Administration TAKING MONEY from fully enrolled schools?

    If OUSD continues to do this, maybe we should also move to become a Charter?

  • Katy Murphy

    ASCEND’s new school building was funded with bond money, which — with the exception of shared campuses — is only allocated to traditional public schools in OUSD. The principal says she believes ASCEND has the right to remain in the building as a charter conversion school under state law (Prop. 39). I believe she filed a formal request to do so.

  • Katy Murphy

    So your school has x number of students and is not receiving funding for all of them?

    To your other point, one possibility the Results-Based Budgeting task force considered was a “weighted student formula,” which would take into account students’ economic status in the district’s funding allocation formula. What do you think of that idea?

    Note: The RBB task force didn’t reach consensus, its chairperson reported to the board last month. So the soonest any of this would change, according to David Kakishiba, is the 2013-14 school year.

  • Cranky Teacher

    I’ve always been a big fan of ASCEND and what the adults and students there have achieved over the past decade.

    However, it is hard to accept that they want to have their cake and eat it, too: Become charter but keep the new campus built by the district.

    On the other hand, I suppose you have to play hardball to keep open innovative spaces inside clumsy bureaucracies.

    Hope a balance can be found.

  • wiley

    I am not a proponent of charter schools, however, if the principal, the teachers and the community agree with a move to charter, then so be it. Also, the children at ASCEND are our children and however overly generous it may seem, it is their best interst that should motivate any decision to keep a charter on that site. Clearly, it is in the children’s best interest to keep them on that home campus.

  • livegreen

    So ASCEND has pointed the way:
    –Get a new campus paid by taxpayer funded Bonds;
    –Then go Charter.

    It doesn’t seem to me to be the intent (much less legality) of the Bond Measure, but hey, if they’re not sued over this and the Board does nothing, who cares? ASCEND gets what they want. That’s all that matters to them, right?

    Time to change OUSD’s name to ODSD.

  • wiley

    Yea I know what you mean- but if the building goes empty, can’t a charter pick it up anyway?

  • OUSD Parent

    Can this be any more complicated???

  • anon79

    I don’t think Ascend always wanted to go charter. This school, along with many of the other newer OUSD schools, was founded with some major beliefs in autonomy & accountability… When the majority of their staff (& the LWL) get pink slips, and talk of removing autonomy exists, schools are going to look for ways to keep what they believe is important for educating their kids. This includes making sure teachers don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they are performing and if the school has the enrollment/demand to keep it financially stable. If the LIFO system ended, or was amended/improved, and schools were promised the flexibility to make the decisions they believe will be best for their students, I doubt this conversion would be happening. I don’t want to see more schools convert to charters, but I unfortunately worry that’s what it might take for the union/district to end or significantly improve policies that in my mind aren’t good for OUSD.

    RBB does need some fine tuning, but it doesn’t need a complete overhaul. Perhaps benefits could be paid by each school based on the average expense. Perhaps schools which are consistently financially bailed out by the district should be closed/merged/grown so that the schools which are financially positive don’t have to give money to keep them afloat. I think schools should be able to carry-over more of the money which they don’t spend. This would encourage schools to spend money where they need to, and not spend at the end of the year on items they’ll never use b/c otherwise they have to give it back. They then could save during the good years, and not be SOL when enrollment drops or unforeseen costs arise.

  • Jim Mordecai


    That is just local investment of taxpayers’ money. Don’t forget that the Obama Administration has sent to California $300 million grant money to grow charters.

    Supporters of charters use to say it was about parental choice. But, in Oakland creating the two charter schools was not about parents making a choice but about teachers choice to convert their public school to a corporate charter school.d

    During this depression isn’t it understandable that a school faculty would consider converting to a charter school when taking that action means it probably get a grant of up to $575,000 for planning and implementing a charter school. There is a strong possibility that both schools will get the Obama become a charter school grant money and it will only cost the taxpayers $1.175 million for the two schools to convert.

    Why wouldn’t school faculties fighting cuts, and pink slips, say: “show me the money and I’ll disunify and wave good-bye to OUSD while I take my school with me”?

    And, how wrong can a faculty think it is to convert to charter when the school principals in both cases are lead signators of the petition presented to the school board to convert their schools to charter schools.

    The Judas faculties and their principals can count the money that will be advantaging their school. Loyalty to a district or loyalty to the public that invested its bond money in its local schools just doesn’t exist for the teachers and principals of these conversion charters. But, perhaps some teachers that signed off to convert their school to a charter may be thankful for the money the Obama Administration has provided to grow charters and on election day in November remember to vote for Obama because he provided a gold-paved way out of the current cuts to the District.

    And, because it is Oakland, there is the added bonus of leaving the vast debt of OUSD behind for those students remaining in OUSD to pay year after year has declining enrollment makes the burdon of debt payment grow for those that remain in the District.

    Meanwhile, debt free the transformed converted Oakland schools get to keep all of their state money without OUSD debt to help pay down. OUSD debt payment is taken off the top before the state forwards its payment for student attendance. The state then sends that payment with interest to the various bankers it borrowed the money from.

    Nationwide population of charter schools has reached two million with California being the state that has since last year grown the most charter schools. With much of the $300 million remaining to grow charter schools, and with the cuts to public education increasing, California will most likely maintain its lead as the state with the fastest growth in charter schools.

    Jim Mordecai

  • another interested parent

    You asked: “To your other point, one possibility the Results-Based Budgeting task force considered was a “weighted student formula,” which would take into account students’ economic status in the district’s funding allocation formula. What do you think of that idea?”

    I sigh when I see ideas like this floated in OUSD. It is true that so-called “hills” schools and some of the “slope” schools have parent resources that the “flatland” schools do not. Already these schools get much less in resources and funding than some of the flatland schools, which is as it should be as there are no additional parent resources for those schools to tap into. But those schools get federal dollars and grants and non-profit assistance that many hills schools do not. To hear it expressed that hills schools (and I assume that is what the task force was implying) should get even less is frustrating.

    It often seems as though the district doesn’t consider hills schools as part of its system. As I have posted before, the school my kids attend is often one of the last to get something (services, materials, infrastructure, etc) that the district has provided to others because the need is not seen to be as great. The parents seem forced to provide everything for the school except utilities, teachers’ salary and benefits, and custodial salaries and administrative assistant’s salary and benefits. There appears to be no room in the school’s RBB budget for anything else, including supplies of all kinds (not only school supplies but also paper towels, soap, etc.). Since the publicity surrounding ASCEND and its charter petition has begun, I’ve been wondering why some of the hills schools don’t decide to turn themselves into charters (just like ASCEND is trying to do) — the parents are footing the bill for much of their children’s public school education already. And as charters those schools could also have the autonomy to teach the way they would like, with no restrictions from OUSD. The reason that ASCEND is looking to change.

  • Oakland Teacher

    good example of RBB = Skyline High School firing every single one of their counselors.

    Advice for the committee: have some backbone and ditch RBB. We are supposed to be a “unified” school district; we are anything but. Now they are thinking of “etching a set of autonomies into stone.” That will be the official end of any pretense of unification.


  • Harold

    re: #12 – It would be great to get our School Board to address those issues.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Another Interested Parent:

    Sometimes the effort for equality does the opposite in what is intended. For example, Randy Ward brought in RBB and made part of the formula of RBB attendance. Marginally more money would go to the school with better attendance. Since the schools with the populations with the most challenges impacting attendance do not do as well as schools with populations with less an array of challenges, RBB on the benchmark of attendance is taking from the poor and giving to the relatively better off.

    A few years ago there was a study comparing weighted student formula budgeting between San Francisco and Oakland School Districts. RBB is a form of student weighted budgeting. One of the report findings was that the incentive built into to RBB to reward schools for good attendance was having no impact on attendance. In other words attendance should have been dropped from the RBB formula years ago because this policy undermines the goal of providing resources to the most challenged school populations.

    Each school in the District will look at going charter because the financial crisis that is cutting programs is impacting all Oakland schools. The State’s $300 million incentive from the Obama Administration to create charters will play a role in that decision.

    Every decision of the District will now be filtered by all of Oakland schools through the questioning of whether to stay or leave the District. Privatizing does not stop with low performing schools and with the cap lifted on the amount of schools allowed in the state there is no longer a prioritizing of charter schools for the poor performing schools.

    And, the budget crisis of more and more state funding cuts will make the possibility of tapping $575,000 grant for leaving the district more and more attractive.

    Unless state law allowing school takeovers by teachers, and the new trigger law for parent takeover is changed, the privatizing of California’s education by charter during this financial crisis will be about the money and not about parent choice as was intended in theory.

    Instability to the public education system of charter school law during this economic crisis makes the Occupy movement seem insignificant.

    I believe there is only one thing the District can do under the present charter laws of the state and that is to place representatives on the corporate boards of the District schools that go charter. Charter law provides that non-profit charters must place on their governing board’s representatives of their authorizer if the authorizer wants to be represented.

    I am not sure if that means Education for Change the management group that will be managing both conversion schools must provide one or two seats on its corporate board. But, the only way to control this possible exist of public schools would be for the school board to pack the governing board of each school that leaves.

    Why wouldn’t the School Board just say no, we won’t approve you leaving? But, if the Board turns down any charter petition, including a conversion charter petition then it can appeal to the county board of education and to the state board of education. And, if all turn them down they can go to court. I think if the petition is properly written, that a court will read the law that says the state legislature wants to grow charter schools and the law says that there are only six limited reasons for turning down a petition. The Association of School Board says that discretion for turning down a petition has been taken from school boards unless one of the six reasons is present. One of the reasons for turning down a petition is if the petitioners cannot present a viable program, but conversion schools already exist with a viable education program. Another one of the six is if the signatures are not valid. Bottom line is, I believe, the courts will side with petitioners because that is the law.

    Jim Mordecai

  • another interested parent

    Are you suggesting that somehow a weighted calculation for economic background would balance out the attendance weighting? I doubt it. Yes, I can see how an attendance weighted system might benefit RBB calculations for “less challenged” (as you call them) schools. But I can’t imagine that the difference in the formula is really that much. And I have to say that at the school my kids attend, the principal is constantly exhorting parents to keep their kids in school and not take them out for vacations, family events, long weekends, unnecessary sick days, etc because that is the only control that the principal has over the RBB budget — keeping kids in school and not on vacation will increase the ADA figures. Here, people will pull their kids from school to do voluntary family activities, thus lowering the ADA funding. In more “challenged” schools, kids can’t even attend consistently due to their family situations or child care obligations to siblings or violence or other truly awful things. Both result in a loss of ADA funding — of course, one resulting from socio-economic and family circumstances and one resulting from the economic ability to take vacations and “sick” days.

    I agree, Mr. Mordecai, that if I looked at this rationally (and not through the lens of my desire to support public education) then each school in OUSD probably should study the benefits of going charter. Perhaps particularly “hills” schools who seem to get little benefit from being included in OUSD.

  • OUSD Parent

    My kids go to a hills school and I am always a little annoyed when we are referred to as “wealthy” or “affluent.” Frankly, I don’t know any wealthy families at our school. The wealthy families send their kids to private schools. I know it’s all relative and yes, we probably do have more family resources than families in other parts of Oakland. But we have to cover EVERYTHING. At our school we had to wait YEARS to have huge pot holes filled on our concrete play yard. Years. We had a parent filling the holes a few times every year with asphalt until OUSD finally got around to repaving. What I find frustrating is that every year I tally up the $ my family donates to our school’s fundraising efforts and we give thousands of dollars. We might as well go private. But we don’t. But there is a tipping point and when the fundraising machine becomes too stressful and cumbersome for families they gracefully bow out of OUSD and go to private schools or move to other districts. If OUSD wants to keep families like mine in its district I think it needs to throw us a bone, or two!

  • Turanga_teach

    I was on the RBB task force that failed to reach consensus, and that “failure” was, in my view, for an extremely good reason: a group of people was given a seemingly easy task which they then discovered was enormously complex, and expected to produce results on a deadline. Given the size of the task and the limited time given, it honestly would have troubled me if a clear recommendation HAD gone forward from the group. The whole process reminded me of one of my favorite Salman Rushdie quotes from Midnight’s Children: “to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.”

    RBB began in a laudable attempt to ensure equity–the challenge, as I think we all understand on some level, is that there’s no such animal as one policy that does that. One Oakland-specific aspect of the policy was including actual teacher salaries and benefits in the school-specific budgets (many if not most other districts don’t do this): the intention was to incentive a more equitable distribution of experienced versus newer teachers across sites.

    That, er, didn’t work. The end result is a large contribution to what folks from hills and slope schools often observe on this forum: many hills and slope schools have a higher percentage of “more expensive” veteran teachers and thus no money for anything other than staff expenditures, and many flatland schools have “cheaper” teachers with higher turnover, and thus more money but much higher need for staff development and less institutional memory for carrying forward practices that work. Hypothetically, the second school could use a bit of that “surplus” to add other services which the population might need (counseling, intervention professionals, etc.), but then again, that money might not be available next year because a veteran teacher with three kids might get bumped/transferred to that site with all of the attending salary and benefit costs.

    Revising RBB is at the core of creating a system with fewer unintentional inequities, and I commend the district for its willingness to at least begin to ask the hard questions about what equity means. I’m hoping they give whatever committee happens the time that they need to really grapple with the issues, because it’s not nearly as easy as it looks at first glance.

  • Turanga_teach

    “incentivize”, not “incentive”. Hey, can we get “preview post” on this thing?

  • Katy Murphy

    It is an incredibly complex issue, no doubt about it. Do you know why the task force wasn’t given more time? Did members ask for an extension when it became clear no consensus would be reached?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Another Interested Parent:

    RBB has built into a “weighted calculation for economic background”. The aim of Randy Ward was to use money delivered to schools to increase attendance. Randy Ward built RBB on the ideas of William Ouchi, Southern California Business School Professor, to reform public education. Randy Ward’s aim was defective because instead of increasing attendance in the poorly attended schools, attendance was not increased according to the Oakland/S.F. study of weighted student budgeting. That means, with budgets under RBB providing no benefit to the intended targets (poorly attended schools) that money to improve attendance is being shifted from schools with poor attendance to schools with the better attendance. This is a cautionary tale of trying to use RBB budgeting to provide equity.

    The part of this story that is unacceptable to me is that the Oakland School Board can’t take that information that was reported to it a couple of years ago and stop a policy that is reported to it as counter-productive. With RBB there seems to be no school board present.

    I am against privatization of public schools through growing charter schools. Charter schools are destructive of public schools and the laws and Obama Administration money currently support the destruction of public education.

    With Obama charter school incentive of $575,000 grant per new charter school; and with the continuing cut in services to schools in both flat, middle, and hills areas, plus the threat of school closures, and the opportunity to leave behind District’s millions of dollars in debt, many Oakland schools will consider leaving for greener pastures.

    And, directly or indirectly almost all Oakland schools will consider threatening to leave to stave off a central administration cut.

    In Los Angeles the teachers’ union leadership of UTLA has tried to stave off growth of charter schools by the Administration by getting the Administration under NCLB provision to use their power to convert schools to charters by getting Contract concessions by promise of a three (3) year moratorium on creating more charter schools. Charter schools are the hammer for Districts with low performing schools to negotiate union contract concessions over wages, benefits, and working conditions.

    California’s charter law is undermining of school administrations power to run their public school systems. Charter schools act as parasites consuming the existing public schools that under law loose, both enrollment–the life blood of their income, and also, under conversion law: their schools!

    Jim Mordecai

  • livegreen

    A couple comments on the “weighting” of RBB:

    -Attendance: let’s not forget that the reason for $ to follow Attendance is because it simply COSTS a school more to handle more students;

    -Jim, I get your point about economic weighting but you acknowledge “RBB has built into a “weighted calculation for economic background”.” So is there already economic weighting or isn’t there? (You seem to be saying there is but then you say it’s flawed. Tell us the specifics of your view as it’s written for OUSD.

    PLEASE without going off on the flawed theories that designed the theory it’s based on. We need facts as they’re applied on the ground, & your statement appears contradictory.

    -How does correcting the “flaws” in RBB take into account those schools in between? Because many “slope” or “schools in the middle” have full attendance but also have 40-60% FRL. So will reforms take away money from all full attendance schools the same, no matter their student population? & if they do balance attendance levels with % of FRL students, will it be only two measures? eg. Above 50% and below 50%?

    I’m sorry but if that’s it then this is PURE BS. There ARE shades of grey in this country and the largest shade of grey in family income is the one in between. Also called the Middle. And there’s a difference between 40-60% FRL and 10% FRL.

    -The biggest problem I have with this whole discussion is, as I understand it, OUSD IS ALREADY TAKING 10% OF THE BUDGET OF ALL SCHOOLS WITH FULL (or close to full) ATTENDANCE.

    Katy, please ask the District this, if it’s a violation of RBB (if not, why not?), and how many years they’ve been doing it?

  • Katy Murphy

    One point of clarification: Yes, it costs more to run a school with more students; the question is whether to base a school’s funding on its enrollment or on its average attendance.

    OUSD doesn’t explicitly factor socioeconomics into its school funding allocation formula. There are adjustments and “balancing pool” subsidies determined by administrators, of course, but the basic formula allots the same amount of general-purpose dollars to schools for poor children as it does for better-off kids.

    As I understand it, the current allocation model was designed to address inequity in a more indirect way, by having schools pay their actual teacher salaries and benefits (which has arguably benefitted some schools in low-income areas with a disproportionate number of teachers low on the pay scale; they pay less for their staff, which leaves them more money to train those less experienced teachers and, maybe, implement other programs). But a high-poverty school with a team of veteran teachers would not benefit from this system, especially if attendance rates were low.

    RBB preceded my arrival at the Trib, though. I’m sure there are people out there with far more expertise about the history of this model — and the reality of its present-day implementation. Feel free to chime in with your knowledge and perspectives.

  • J.R.

    Here is great info on budgeting,resources etc, it is several years old but the principles still apply:


  • Jim Mordecai


    My point pertains to including in RBB a reward for good attendance. My understanding better attendance provides more school site funding.

    If we dropped RBB then attendance would have no relationship to school site funding.

    The study on student weighted budgeting at Oakland and San Francisco reported that including attendance in the student weighted formula for Oakland did not obtain the objective of increasing attendance (San Francisco did not make increasing attendance part of its budgeting).

    First of all if the report is clear and including attendance in RBB didn’t achieve the objective of increasing attendance then the Board, I feel, should have wanted attendance dropped from the RBB formula.

    Now the part that must be confusing is that I then made a guess about the facts based on my assumption that schools with attendance problems were schools with high degree of poverty as measured by free and reduced lunch eligibilty. I followed that assumption with the idea that these schools starting with low attendance and since no impact was found with RBB and schools with better attendance were getting more attendance driven funding, then what was really happening was a taking of resources from poverty schools.

    Even if my guess is wrong, the fact that attendance didn’t improve for the District in implementing RBB should mean that attendance should be dropped from the RBB formula.

    Livegreen: Don’t you think attendance should not be included in RBB as used of attendance has not achieved its objective?

    And, Livegreen, the 10% is cost of central administration. Why an argument can be made for whether that central administration cost should be less or more (OEA supports chop from the top), are you picturing having no central administration cost?

    Jim Mordecai

    Jim Mordecai

  • livegreen

    Jim, I don’t know if I agree with your fundamental presumption “including in RBB [is] a reward for good attendance.” You keep stating the term “reward” when there’s a fundamental cost to high enrollment that you’re not addressing. (By inserting that there’s a “reward” you’re only questioning whether there should be a “reward”, not the underlying cost of more students).

    You seem to be in dispute with the very nature that, as Katy puts it, “Yes, it costs more to run a school with more students.”

    & you certainly aren’t addressing the cost savings of having less experienced staff, which can then also be supplemented with both more training & other staff (T/As, social emotional consultants, etc.). Which, BTW, the District is supplementing even more with the new Health Clinics. (If that doesn’t prove to you they care about poorer schools, students & families, I don’t know what will).

  • livegreen

    Katy and Jim, The District’s document you link to says:

    “Equity: RBB has improved equity among Oakland’s schools. Under RBB, higher-poverty elementary schools receive more resources. They are spending 20% more per pupil than schools with zero poverty.”

    Sounds to me like RBB is having a direct affect NOW on equity.

  • livegreen

    Katy, re. “…the question is whether to base a school’s funding on its enrollment or on its average attendance.” Can you explain this further? I thought a school’s enrollment and average attendance are the same?

    If they differ, please explain how. For example, if a school’s funding for the current year based on an average over several past years? Instead of a school’s actual enrollment in the current year?

    And for the future, what are the various proposals for change the Board & Administration are discussing?

  • Katy Murphy

    Enrollment and average daily attendance (ADA) would only be the same if a school had a 100 percent attendance rate. If a school has 200 students enrolled and an attendance rate of 95 percent, it would get funding for the equivalent of 190 students. It was designed to improve attendance, but as Jim noted, it didn’t prove to be a successful incentive.

    The board hasn’t put out any specific proposals – to my knowledge – for this proposed ad-hoc committee. That committee would address a different set of questions than the task force and administration will, according to board member David Kakishiba.

    The committee, if formed, would decide whether to make certain school “autonomies” — over how to spend their money, for example — board policy, rather than just practices.

    The administration would take the guiding principles from the ad-hoc committee and (maybe) decide whether to change the current funding formula (enrollment vs. attendance, average vs. actual teacher salaries and benefits, etc.). I haven’t seen a timeline or specific proposals, but if you want to learn more about the issues, here’s a link to the task force’s page.

  • Katy Murphy

    Of course, if the OUSD administration does eventually choose to allocate funding based on school enrollment, rather than attendance, it wouldn’t mean that all schools would magically get more money. I’d imagine the amount allocated per student would drop, as the enrollment numbers are higher than the attendance averages they’re currently using.

    California school districts are funded according to average attendance, btw, not enrollment.

  • Jim Mordecai


    You raise important questions. However, I’ve tried to get across one point that is either a fact or not a fact. I believe it is a fact that the RBB formula includes more funding for schools with better attendance.

    I have no idea the amount of money involved. But, as a policy the weighted student comparison of Oakland and S.F. found the policy did not produce higher attendance. Why distribute money to schools to encourage attendance if the policy is found not to work?

    I have had no district document in mind other than the Oakland and S.F. weighted student budget study when making my assertion that including attendance in the RBB formula doesn’t work and should be removed.

    Statement such as RBB has improved equity among Oakland’s schools is so broad the details and context for the statement is what is important.

    For example, the District gets Title I funding for schools based on free and reduced lunch data. That may be a big part of the money spent to schools with high poverty. The District might have changed the cost of central administration from a central administration cost to a cost charged to each school site under RBB. The clerk didn’t move to a school site processing Title I purchase orders but the accounting might have shifted on paper from central administration to a school site cost. The details in that 20% increase are important to understand.

    A thing that always bothered me about RBB is that the full cost does not seem to be provided. Personnel is a big cost. Oakland has high principal turnover and new people coming in to a new system need guides. These guides that hand hold new principals are a cost that, I believe, is not included when RBB is discussed.

    Also, there is little discussion of the school site accounts that are overspent and underspent. Overspent is obvious when schools spent more than they were allocated. Underspent is when key personnel is foolishly cut by principals that wanted to use RBB to drop having an attendance clerk to spend on a site (usually what the princial wants) priority. But, without proper records the state fines rightly fines the District during audits. Although students attended and the District earned ADA if a clerk is missing that should have maintained proper record, then the District has to give back money it claimed but does not have the proper records to prove their claim.

    Past audits show principals have repeatedly gotten the District into a financial hit because their records for fund raising activities are incomplete. It is an open question as to what percentage of State the State Controller’s audit fines are because principals did not fund clerical positions to properly manage their programs. When central office maintains records it ma well do a better job than a school site with other priorities. A comparison to similar districts that get audited by the State Controller might show to do not have RBB saves money. Ole Ben’s Poor Richard’s pound-foolish idea maybe operating in the RBB situation.

    A problem with RBB is that the District’s marginal differentiated identity is bound up in the concept and the District is bias in maintaining it without fairly studying its pros and cons.

    And, the romantic idea of a student weighted budgeting formula providing equity in a culture and society of inequity is an overreach. I believe it would be a better goal of the District to provide “opportunity” rather a promise of equity that the District does not have the capacity to deliver here on this earth. Just providing opportunity is an enough of a challenge.

    Robbing Peter to pay Paul,or robbing Paula to pay Patricia, of what is suppose to be education dollars for all District students, is not politically sustainable if Peter or Paula’s family learn how the District’s educational dollars are being spent inequitably to provide equity.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jim Mordecai


    The information that I don’t know is how schools were funded prior to RBB. I am assuming it became different with Randy Ward’s RBB. Maybe, someone can provide that information.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Livegreen

    I thought the primary goal of RBB is equity for poorer schools, AND to give flexibility to schools over their spending. That’s what the District document says. So where’s the connection to incentive for maximum attendance?

    & how could it even do that? Parents don’t know about all that and that’s not why they choose a school. They care mostly if a school is good, and that it’s safe.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Ochi was writing from the point of view of decentralization of management with sites making as many decisions as practical. Equity was not the primary goal but shifting power from central administration. Randy Ward’s RBB implementation was not primarily about equity.

    Goal of equity is the current Superintendent’s goal.

    Remember it is not the parents choice of a school when a faculty petitions to convert their public school to a charter. In that case parent’s don’t have a vote, only the permanent teachers.

    Jim Mordecai

  • another interested parent

    Both #18 post of OUSD Parent and the #19 post of @Turanga_teach have phrased the dichotomy and the (perhaps) unintended consequences of RBB quite nicely and succinctly, as I see them.

    Truly, teacher salaries and benefits should be taken out of the RBB equation. It seems to me that if that were to happen, schools could choose to make offers to any teachers (experienced or not) and not worry about the cost of the higher experience and benefits to their school site budgets. Aren’t we all agreed that there really should be a better mix of experienced and relatively new teachers at ALL school sites? “Hills” and “slopes” need more “new” teachers to bring fresh ideas and “flats” need more experienced teachers to bring stability and real world experience to the classrooms. Isn’t this a no-brainer? I don’t get why it would be otherwise. Any reasons that others can put forward?

    If Livegreen’s #28 post is accurate that the district document states: “Equity: RBB has improved equity among Oakland’s schools. Under RBB, higher-poverty elementary schools receive more resources. They are spending 20% more per pupil than schools with zero poverty.” then, I wonder how OUSD can contemplate giving even less $$ to schools with fewer kids who qualify for free lunches. (By the way, there is no school in OUSD with zero poverty — even the “hills” schools have kids who qualify as living in poverty. Perhaps there are very few in those schools, but they are there even if they are in much lower numbers.) So, to me this says that OUSD gives 20% more funding to schools with higher poverty numbers and this on top of federal dollars and additional grant and non-profit funds received. I am NOT implying that any OUSD school is rolling in funds. It simply isn’t true. But, again, I ask: what are the “hills” and “slopes” schools receiving from OUSD that they couldn’t get otherwise on their own as charters? I bet that parent fundraising in those schools is expected to make up for the 20% differential and exceed it and that is why OUSD feels justified in these funding calculations. I have not been a proponent of charter schools. But as I noted earlier, I am beginning to seriously question whether “hills” and certain “slope” schools are gaining anything by remaining part of OUSD.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD

    “You shouldn’t do that” is what a senior, 30+ public school teacher told me once when I told her all that the parents pay for at our school. She said, “That’s how it works. they cut away the things they know middle class families can’t imagine their kids doing without (like a functional library). They know you will fill in the gaps and they promise when or if funding comes back, they’ll reinstate that funding at your school. But they never will as long as they see parents paying for it. If funding goes up, the contracts to outside sources will go up. It never returns to the schools with active parents.” Thus far, she’s right.

    And here’s the discussion again about Hills and Slopes schools and their parents that have the ability to make up the difference compared with Flats schools who do not have this. But, really this is more erosion of the middle class. It’s pitting people make who generally make between $40k and $80k a year individually and are, generally, combining that income with a parenting partner to people who’s household income is under $40k and often under $25K. People who go to public school in the hills and slopes are viewed as rich and privileged when in fact those people are NOT in public school at all and rarely do they concern themselves with public education. It’s a tactic used by the powers that be for centuries: pit the very poor to working class against the middle and the onus is off the controlling privileged.

    Like Tony Smith who earns over a quarter of a million dollars a year and is calling these shots. If we want real representation, we need people who truly represent the families of public schools.

  • Jim Mordecai


    J.R. in posting 25 provides the reference to the document on S.F. and Oakland’s weighted student formula budgeting.

    The end of the discussion on difference in S.F. and Oakland use of attendance as part of its budget formula for school sites states that:

    “In sum, although high-poverty high school attendance rates have increased since 1999–2000,Oakland’s use of ADA in the budgeting policy has not appeared to have much of an impact on raising attendance rates in the district.”

    S.F. uses the 10th day of attendance for its budgeting to school sites and Oakland uses the average daily attendance (ADA) from a school site’s previous year. Disadvantage for Oakland is that it does not have a policy for adjusting predicted attendance to actual attendance. Perhaps since the report that has changed.
    I don’t know.

    Jim Mordecai

  • wiley

    Let’s keep it simple.
    1. Schools with more disadvantaged students tend to have lower attendance – so why penalize them for that? Everyone knows they need all the funds they can get. The practice of denying funds based attendance is discriminatory. There is no evidence that witholding money translated into sites deveoping strategies to increase attendance.
    2. The difference in salaries between verteran teachers and new teachers can approach over $30,000 to say nothing of benefit costs. So how does that translate into practice? How does that translate into the number of staff at site, the number of programs, supplies, professional development time, noon supervisiors, campus security staff, nurses,psychologists? Let’s say a school of 15 classrooms has 80% new teachers while another has 80% veterans? Which school has more resources, smaller classses? Which school do you think will lobby for RBB? Senior teachers?
    3. What is the Results in Results Based Budgeting?
    Tell you one thing – it established the notion of schools being entrepreneurships. Oakland dis-Unified School District.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Thanks for making the issue simple.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Steven Weinberg

    It is very hard to evaluate RBB because it is impossible to isolate the effects of the budget allocation system from the numerous other changes that have taken place in the district over the same time period: significant general purpose budget cuts, the growth of small schools and the withdraw of outside funding to support them, the growth of charter schools, and the huge increase in emphasis on standardized test scores.

    Before RBB, school sites had very small amounts of general purpose funds to spend at their own discretion, in the tens of thousands of dollars, in most cases not enough to hire even one additional staff member. (I am ignoring state and federal funds in this analysis.) These general purpose funds covered supplies. All staffing costs were taken care of by the downtown administration, which assigned staff based on an automatic staffing formula. The number of students enrolled determined the number of teachers, administrators, clerical workers, and custodial staff members schools had. There were clear and arbitrary cutoff points; if a middle school had 750 students it got two assistant principals, if it had 749 it got one. (I don’t remember the exact cut-off points, but you get the idea.) All middle schools and high schools had a librarian; all had counselors.

    When the district allocations were inadequate, principals would then appeal to the district leadership for additional staff. They would take their master programs and show that they could not offer a full range of classes without an additional teacher or explain why they needed an additional administrator or other staff member. Sometimes those requests were granted, sometimes not.

    No attention was paid to how much was spent on staffing for each school site. All the allocations were based on numbers of positions, so more money was spent on the schools with more senior staffs. Often, but not always, the schools with more senior staffs were in the hills. Principals did not have to consider personnel costs when hiring.

    RBB has given principals and the school leadership teams much more discretion and much more responsibility. In some ways this has been a good thing. It has allowed schools with particular needs to spend more in those areas. On the other hand, as budgets were tightened and school sites had to eliminate positions, cuts were made on school site levels that would have been politically unacceptable at the district level, i.e. the elimination of librarians and counselors at middle schools and now high schools. RBB has also meant that principals are factoring costs in to their decisions on who to pick in filling vacant positions and which positions to eliminate.

    Some very bad things have happened at schools as part of the RBB process, but I am not sure that, given the cutbacks that schools have experienced over the past 10 years, the results would not have been worse under the old system. One thing I can say for sure, changing the budget allocation system cannot make up for the significant amount of underfunding our schools are receiving.

  • another interested parent

    Okay, so it sounds as though the pre-RBB system was poorly administered as well. And it is very true that amending RBB will not cure all that ails school sites. But the way it operates now makes for some terrible and difficult decisions at site level — some of which are noted in post #41. And some of which have been discussed at school board meetings. I remember one budget meeting last spring in the midst of all of the pink slip controversy, in which various examples of principal prioritizing were put forth — security guards or teachers? Librarians or supplies? Two new teachers or one experienced teacher? As I recall, Alice Spearman said that the only thing in her mind that couldn’t be negotiated as part of RBB process was each school’s attendance clerk — that position is the most important in the whole school as that person keeps track of students’ attendance and thus the amount of $$ the district and the sites are entitled to. So, at least with regard to staffing, RBB leaves the door wide open to large differences at schools as to teachers.

    Again, I go back to what seems common-sense to me — OUSD needs a better mix of experienced versus newer teachers at all sites. There’s got to be some middle ground between what Mr. Weinberg in post #41 notes as the staffing problems pre-RBB and the problems now with RBB and that are magnified by the enormous budget cuts at the site level that have happened are will happen again next school year.

  • Bones

    I agree – Let’s keep it simple.

    1. Schools with more disadvantaged students tend to have lower attendance – so why penalize them for that? Everyone knows they need all the funds they can get. The practice of denying funds based attendance is discriminatory. There is no evidence that witholding money translated into sites deveoping strategies to increase attendance.

    Why do we want to fund schools with low attendance? What good is funding a school if they can’t keep their students. If a school had 600 enrollment with a 50% attendance rate vs. another school had 600 enrollment with 100% attendance rate, why should both schools get the same funding? Why should OUSD, which gets 2x the money from the state for the school with 100% attendance, take money from the school with 100% attendance?

    There are a number of schools in disadvantaged areas with extremely high attendance rates. There are a number of schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods IN OAKLAND with ADA over 98%!! Don’t give up on kids because they live in disadvantaged areas guys.

    2. The difference in salaries between verteran teachers and new teachers can approach over $30,000 to say nothing of benefit costs. So how does that translate into practice? How does that translate into the number of staff at site, the number of programs, supplies, professional development time, noon supervisiors, campus security staff, nurses,psychologists? Let’s say a school of 15 classrooms has 80% new teachers while another has 80% veterans? Which school has more resources, smaller classses? Which school do you think will lobby for RBB? Senior teachers?

    So get rid of seniority based pay. Teachers should be paid based on their performance, and the number of days a teacher has worked in OUSD is definitely not the best metric we can come up with. The problem with what you described isn’t RBB, it’s the way we pay teachers.

    3. What is the Results in Results Based Budgeting?
    Tell you one thing – it established the notion of schools being entrepreneurships. Oakland dis-Unified School District.

    Has Google helped you do things more efficiently? Have you had a loved one take drugs to fight cancer? Entrepreneurship drives innovation. The current education system has failed our kids for decades. We need innovation. If you want a state-driven system, move to Venezuela. I hear their education system is amazing.

  • J.R.
  • Jim Mordecai


    A factor that distorts the spread sheet comparison of benefits is that some districts negotiated pay in lieu of benefits and put that pay on the salary schedule so that teachers pay for their own benefits. This fact clouds the comparisons from district to district.

    Jim Mordecai

  • livegreen

    In follow-up to a previous budget topic, Jim Mordecai mentioned OUSD borrows from Bond Measure to bridge the awful delayed payments from the State. This does seem to be the case, as Katy also confirmed.

    It is interesting then that OUSD Administration & Board certifies that it does no such thing.

    In the First Interim Financial Report under “Using One-time Revenues to Fund Ongoing Expenditures – Are there ongoing general fund expenditures funded with one-time revenues that have changed since budget adoption by more than five percent?” OUSD checks “NO”.

    Is this not wrong OUSD?

  • livegreen

    Sorry, cut & pasted wrong section of the First Interim Financial Report:

    On page 7 of the First Interim Financial Report under “Temporary lnterfund Borrowings – Are there projected temporary borrowings between funds?” OUSD checks “NO”.

    Katy, can we get an edit section? Good examples are on either of the blogs Oakland Local or A Better Oakland…

  • Jim Mordecai


    First Interim Report is a report on actions taken in the First Interim. Curious if the same question is asked in the Second Interim Report and if the answer stays the same.

    The State, I believe, starts delaying its payments after the First Interim Report and the need to cover that situation then is pressed on the Districts.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jim Mordecai

    From 5/25/11 power point presentation to the School Board on the 2010-11 3rd Interim Financial Report
    Executive Summary
     The District is projected to meet its required 2% reserve for economic uncertainty for 2010-2011.
     Staff is recommending submittal of the Third Interim
    Financial Report to the Alameda County Office of Education as a “Qualified” certification.
     Due to the State continuing to defer payments to school districts this year, the District is projecting the General Fund to have a cash shortfall of $21.6 million.
     The Board has approved temporary interfund borrowing of $25 million from the Building Fund to cover the shortterm.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Alice Spearman

    1. There is a 3% Reserve required by our board, the state only requires a 2% reserve. This was done especially because there are so many unknowns and the district tries to cover expendextures from schools who “hav financial challanges” that central always covers. (like they decide not to hire security but have to have one, school secretaries but must have one. In the case of McClymonds, there is need for a school secretary and AP classes they could not fund, Lafayette could not fund a security offices and desperatley need one). I suspect the board will didrect the Superintendent and staff to fill these positions in the next semester.
    2. Qualified means we will meet our financial obligations but we still have financial challangesbecause of state deferment.
    3. In the past there were inter fund borrowing to make the last payroll, however the funds were paid back before October.It is all legal, this board will not particiape in any trasaction that will put us in financial jeporady from the state again! This year we will borrow from the county, there will not be a need to inter fund trans fer, it is called a TRANS. No interest is applied I believe.
    Follow the cash flow reports given during the Personnel and Finance committee. We do get the reports monthly.