Oakland Local

Oakland residents, particularly parents of students in Oakland public schools and elected Board of Education officials, will have a lot more responsibility for the education being delivered in Oakland schools starting this September than they have for the past three decades.

With Governor Jerry Brown’s 2013-2014 budget, approved by the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a so-called “Local Control Funding Formula” was instituted for how money flows to schools.

That formula “is basically a change in the distribution of state money for education to local school districts in which local school districts will decide how it flows in many ways to local schools,” described the formula’s architect, Michael Kirst, president of the California Board of Education, speaking at a tele-briefing organized by EdSource.

“Thing is to return more decision-making to the local level. A lot of the accountability will not be stage-managed by specifications in the law in Sacramento. People are really going to have to get active at the local level to make this really effective for their local needs,” he said. He wrote the plan while a professor at Stanford University.

Under the new formula, the state did away with some 40 categorical funding pots or rules on how money was spent in schools, and will let school districts decide themselves how to meet required academic standards and targeted needs, and produce good academic outcomes.

Moreover, the formula tries to iron out decades of financial inequities between school districts in the state by giving more to districts with many students who are low income, English learners, and foster children.

In the Oakland Unified School District, about 80 percent of students fit one or more of those descriptions, according to an estimate by EdSource.

So Oakland stands to get substantially more than it has. This coming school year, starting in September, the increase will be very modest, $7,502 instead of $7,171 per student, according to a state Department of Finance estimate. Eight years from now when the program is fully implemented, though, Oakland should receive $11,810 per student, according to state finances.

Under the plan, each school district gets a base grant, based on average daily attendance in its schools. Then, school districts get supplemental grants for each student who is low income, an English learner, or a foster child, because these students require more resources. The supplemental grant is about 20 percent of the base grant, over time. Then lastly, districts with concentrations of such students — or where 55 percent or more of the students are one of these three populations — get concentration grants to help them provide needed resources.

“It is going to be critical to make sure the dollars intended for use for disadvantaged students are in fact used for these students,” said Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst at the California Budget Project.

“Local school boards are going to have a lot more authority to spend education dollars than in the past, and stakeholders are going to have to work to hold them accountable,”
he said.

The Oakland Unified Board of Education plans to meet Wednesday night, and will hold a public hearing on its budget for the year beginning in September.

Board of Education member Jody London said, “I know that we will be making a number of decisions on Wednesday about the budget, and that we are cognizant of the additional responsibility that accompanies these additional funds. I expect we will have more discussion about the accountability provisions in August.”

The hearing is at LaEscuelita Education Center, 1050 2nd Avenue, Oakland.

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