Pink slips, 2012: a different story

Last year by this date, 657 Oakland teachers had slips of paper telling them they were at risk of losing their jobs because of budget cuts — a traumatic development that hit some schools particularly hard. (When all was said and done, the district eliminated about 95 of the 538 full-time positions originally slated for potential cuts; adult education took the brunt of the layoffs.)

This year, none of Oakland’s permanent teachers received layoff warnings, Superintendent Tony Smith reported, saying the district’s reserves were deep enough to absorb mid-year budget cuts, should the state tax measures for education fail.

March 15 is the date by which districts must notify teachers of the possibility of layoff or reassignment, according to state law. My colleague Sharon Noguchi said other districts issued fewer notices this year as well. You can find her story and district-by-district information here.

Two of Oakland’s temporary teachers were laid off, and 16 teachers without tenure were dismissed (not necessarily for budget reasons), a number that’s significantly lower than in recent years. Two administrators received notices, as well, the administration reported.


OUSD board might give local schools more control

Remember the Oakland school board’s Special Committee on School-Based Management and Budgeting? It’s meeting now, and teachers, parents and administrators are at the table to discuss the issues. Oakland Community Organizations — which believes schools need more control over curriculum, budget, staffing and scheduling — held a news conference before the session.

You can watch the meeting live, here. And you’ll find relevant documents here.

Below, from a draft document, is an excerpt of the board’s statement of intent:

The Board of Education believes that those closest to students at a school — principals, teachers, classified employees, parents, and students — are generally in the best position to know and to effectively address the specific academic, social and emotional needs of the students.



Looking for: Success stories, budget-coping tales

I’m scheduled to be on KALW’s Your Call program at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning — and I could use your help. We’ll be talking about examples of success in schools despite a bleak and tumultuous economy and budget, and ways that people have coped with diminishing state funding.

I don’t plan to sugarcoat the fiscal realities facing California’s public schools (and I doubt the host will, either). But I’d love to hear from you about what parents, staff, organizations and local businesses are doing to help children receive the education they deserve, regardless of the economy and the state’s politics. What steps have been taken to improve or support your school that haven’t cost extra money? How has your principal/school site council mitigated the impact of cutbacks when crafting recent budgets?

Thanks, in advance, for your help. It would be great if you’d provide your school or program’s name along with your comment. You’re welcome to call into the show, too!


If the Oakland school district had $1.46 billion…

Project list

This evening, after the Oakland school board picks a president and vice president for 2012 (6 p.m.), it moves onto its facilities master plan. The special study session — no vote on the plan tonight — is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at 1025 Second Ave.

The presentation posted on the agenda (links below) covers enrollment and demographic trends, facts about the number, age and size of district buildings, and a list of projects that might be undertaken if OUSD had the money.

If OUSD tackled every project on that list it would cost an estimated $1.46 billion, not including change orders and cost overruns. (The figure is listed on one slide as $1,460 million, which — though probably standard for these kinds of reports — sounds a little like someone saying they’re five-foot-twelve.)

It includes: $145 million in projects from the 2005 master plan that never materialized, such as upgrades to fire alarms; $333 million in seismic safety improvements; $457 million in modernization projects; $53 million in solar and energy efficiency; $300 million to replace portable buildings and $172.5 million for community kitchens, health care centers and other “site optimization” projects.

As most of the Measure B funds have been allocated or spent, this project prioritization appears to be in preparation for another bond measure campaign, which the board discussed last fall (election date and amount TBD).

You can find links to the relevant documents here and the projects list below. Come 6 p.m., you’ll find a link to a live video stream of the meeting here — and something called “eComment,” which I hadn’t noticed before.

What’s your take on the facilities master plan?


K-12 schools spared worst-case `trigger cuts’ scenario

California school districts will take a $79 million midyear hit — plus a $248 million cut in home-to-school transportation — as a result of automatic “trigger cuts” set to take effect early next year, according to early news reports, including this story from our Sacramento reporter, Steve Harmon.

That’s far below the $1.5 billion many had feared, based on an earlier fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that projected an even greater budget shortfall.

The Sacramento Bee has reported that the $79 million works out to a cut of $11 per student. For Oakland Unified, I believe that would amount to roughly $400,000. As we’ve reported, the district administration says it anticipated a larger cut and kept enough funding in its reserves to absorb it without cutting expenses, mid year.

Subsidized child care, university and community college systems would be more deeply affected, however.

Continue Reading


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. Continue Reading


OUSD’s rosy enrollment projections

The Oakland school district is closing five elementary schools next year. Two of its other schools might be converted into independently run charters, taking 800 children with them. And at least one — quite possibly, two — brand new charter schools open next fall, with plans to admit more than 600 students, combined.

But OUSD’s leaders aren’t bracing for a big enrollment drop. They predict the school system’s enrollment will hold firm in September — and even grow slightly (by 125 students, to 38,166).

Will the numbers bear out? They didn’t this fall. Enrollment in the city’s district-run schools, though flat, came in 300 students shy of projections, creating a $1.6 million budget gap that needed to be closed immediately.

2012 projections, explained: Continue Reading


OUSD’s budget priorities

6:20 p.m. update: The meeting got started late. Only four of the seven board members — Jody London, David Kakishiba, Gary Yee and Alice Spearman — are here. You should be able to catch the live video of the meeting now.


The Oakland school board is talking finances tonight, and I’m heading to a 6 p.m. special meeting to see what I can find out.

You should be able to catch live video of the meeting here, once it starts. Meeting details here.

The board is considering these questions, among others:

1. How will District schools and programs be affected by the impending State revenue reductions for FY 2011-2012 (mid-year) and FY 2012-2013?
2. What planning assumptions is District using to establish FY 2012-2013 enrollment and attendance projections?
3. How is District spending FY 2011-2012 General Fund (unrestricted and restricted) revenues?
4. What is the status of the District’s Strategic Plan Year One Landmarks?


Oakland teachers push for changes beyond charter school conversion

Staff Photojournalist
photo by Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

Teachers from two East Oakland elementary schools are on a mission to shake up the status quo in the Oakland school district.

This fall, they voted to turn their schools — ASCEND and Learning Without Limits — into independently run charters so that they could have more control over staffing, curriculum, budgeting and other things, such as the school calendar. Hearings on those charter conversion petitions and others begin at 6 p.m. Monday evening in the district office at 1025 Second Avenue.

But the teachers at these two schools have goals beyond charter conversion. They want to organize like-minded educators around some of their ideas, such as changing the way teachers are evaluated. They also want to do away with a layoff system driven almost entirely by credential and years of service in a district (though they’re not against including seniority as a factor). They, like the union’s current leaders, think teachers should have more say in what materials they use to teach children.

At the Oakland Education Association’s membership meeting last week the teachers circulated a flier that said: Continue Reading


Midyear “trigger cuts” likely for California schools

OAKLAND UPDATE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district could be forced to absorb midyear cuts of up to $5.5 million, or $190 per student, as a result of the trigger cuts. He said the 2011-12 budget accounts for this possibility. So for this year anyway, he said, “Any impact would be slight and we definitely would not make cuts to schools.”

Alameda Unified schools appear to be similarly situated, according to this letter to parents from Superintendent Kirsten Vital.


The news today out of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office was not good for public education in California: The LAO has forecasted that state tax revenues will fall $3.7 billion short of the level on which the June budget deal was based.

About $1.4 billion in automatic, mid-year cuts to k-12 schools and community colleges will be triggered if the shortfall is $2 billion or greater. Steve Harmon, our Capitol reporter, lays it out here.

The final word on the trigger cuts comes on December 15, when the Department of Finance issues its predictions. The rosier of the two projections prevails.

The below graphic, reproduced with permission from School Services of California, Inc., helps to break it down. A provision of the trigger law prohibits teacher layoffs, and some districts — though not OUSD –have considered shaving more days off the school year if the cuts come to pass.

Trigger law, explained