Enrollment plunges in Oakland schools

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group

On the 20th day of school, Oakland’s district schools counted about 36,260 students. That’s 1,750 fewer kids than there were a year ago, a drop of 4.6 percent, according to 2012-13 enrollment figures recently released by OUSD.

Multiply that loss by $5,000, a rough estimate of general-purpose, per-student state funding (otherwise known as the revenue limit), and you are approaching $9 million. OUSD will have that much less to spend in 2013-14, in addition to any statewide trigger cuts and reduced special-purpose money, according to that crude calculation.

So much for the district’s optimistic projections. What’s more, this year’s drop follows several years of relatively flat enrollment. The school system experienced a crippling loss of students in the early to mid 2000s, a major factor in its infamous fiscal meltdown, but the trend began to level out a few years years ago.

The two most apparent factors influencing this sudden development are last year’s school closures and this year’s charter school openings — though as I’ve reported, Oakland’s school-age population (5-17) dwindled by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Charter schools: Six new charter schools opened in Oakland this fall, including three schools that left the district, taking many of their students with them — in one case, because it was being closed. Enrollment at the new schools adds up to about 1,600. That brings the total number of children attending an Oakland charter school up to to 12,500, according to data from the OUSD Office of Charter Schools (whose coordinator, Gail Greely, took a job at the Alameda County Office of Education as of this past Monday).

The enrollments of the three schools that left OUSD — ASCEND, Learning Without Limits and Lazear — account for about 1,100 of those students.

Sometimes charters draw students from outside of the city, or those who’d otherwise go to a private school or a public school in a nearby district. Of course, even if we knew that every one of the 1,600 students at the new charter schools would otherwise have enrolled in OUSD, it still wouldn’t explain the entire enrollment drop.

School closures: By now, I’m pretty sure the district knows exactly how many of the students enrolled in grades k-4 last year at Lakeview, Lazear, Maxwell Park, Marshall and Santa Fe went on to attend another OUSD school, and how many didn’t. I’ve asked for that information, but have yet to receive it. I’m told a full analysis and accounting is being prepared for a December meeting, but I don’t see why that basic question can’t be answered earlier. We’re already more than two months into the school year.

On the bright(er) side: OUSD still has far more students than it was projected to have in a 2007 forecast. I dug up a grim report from June 2007 (one of my first, ridiculously headlined blog posts!), back when enrollment was 39,694. The school district was expected to have only 32,000 students by 2012.

There’s much to be analyzed in all these numbers, in terms of what’s happening, why, and how the changes are affecting schools. What do you think this will this mean for OUSD?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Observer

    So you are saying that when the district sets the budget at a school site (ours, “we” -the families- have been told by the SSC—the idiots— that ours is $3200 per child that has been counted on the 20th day of school) either didn’t know how to read the math, is lying or the budget sent to the school from which it pays staff and programs is a lie in of itself?

  • Jesse James

    Stay on the right path and you will succeed. Please don’t let bullies push you off the path; continue on. Internet access and time on one’s hands do not an expert make. If we ignore those voices of obstruction and bitterness, then they will have no consequence.

  • Nontcair

    Someone with a high school diploma who teaches out of her kitchen apartment in West Oakland probably couldn’t even do it for that price.

  • Nontcair

    I was unable to locate a budget document for a particular OUSD school which would have been “approved” by a SSC.

    I believe that SSCs are statutorily required to be majority composed of school district employees (teachers and principal).

  • Len Raphael

    the Trib/CC Times compensation database covers OUSD.
    Have to read the column headings. Total cost of compensation for Anthony Smith is 352k. Navigation can be a pita. Thomas Peele who oversees it has impeccable journalist credentials.

  • Len Raphael

    Most of the time here, residents display impressively low expectations of Oakland’s mediocre schools, high crime, mediocre city services, police abuse, etc.

    Very much “if you don’t like here, move to” Albany, Berkeley, Castro Valley etc.

    Yet at election time, voters become Pollyanna’s and take a couple of minutes to pick local officials based on meaningless endorsements or whether the candidate took the time to talk to them.

    New residents are not as tolerant of the crime as the existing residents, but don’t see the connections between high crime, bad city services of all kinds, low tax base. Not like you can improve the schools without improving the other problems here.

    Then blaming charter schools, as if the school problems didn’t exist long before charters. Or to say that if only Prop 13 could go away, all would be fine at OUSD.

    Question: is there an statutory limit on the percentage of kids in charter schools? What’s to stop it from continuing to the point where most kids here are in charters?

  • Len Raphael

    Back in the day, members of the Alameda County Bd of Ed, got free family medical insurance. Well worth a couple of hours meeting per month. Don’t know if that’s still a perk.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Len Raphael:

    The answer to your question is there was a statutory limit on charter schools and it was removed. President Obama has lead in removing state limits on charter schools has a condition for apply for Race to the Top grant money. He was public in supporting the idea of charter schools before he was elected and followed through when elected.

    Of course ending charter schools solves no other problem than the problem charter schools create in diverting public funding for private purpose. And, it would shorten amount of time, energy and money OUSD spends on processing the never ending charter petitions that brought to OUSD school board meetings.

    Jim Mordecai