The Acting Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District wants to overhaul the budget to shift more money to schools with needy students in neighborhoods with lots of stress.
Among other things, Dr. Gary Yee, acting superintendent, wants to change teacher pay and placement procedures so that certain schools don’t end up with the least experienced teachers.
Yee is expected to present the plan to the full board of education Wednesday night.
But even as board members, community members and even principals applaud the intent of Yee’s proposals, several are raising big red flags about some inadvertent harm it could cause.
At issue is an idea to centralize the process of assigning teachers to schools to bring more equity to assuring some experienced teachers end up at each school. Right now, schools in low income neighborhoods tend to have the least experienced teachers because of high turnover, where teachers get burned out and leave because of the greater challenges in high needs schools. Yee wants to fix that.
But doing so would take away some of the decision making power from school principals and school sites on answering school needs, some principals and community groups say.
“The folks I’m in touch with definitely do not want to move to average teacher salaries and do not want to move to a centralized staffing formula,” said principal Leo Fuchs, principal of Learning without Limits elementary school, testifying at a subcommittee hearing about the budgeting proposals earlier this fall. His school, on 40th Avenue in Oakland, serves mostly low income kids.
“We believe decisions is should be made by those closest to the kids and one of the most significant decisions we can make is how many teachers do we want and who do we want those teachers to be,” he said.
“Do we want more people in the office or do we want more people doing intervention (reading and math help), Do we need a school security officer or so need more tutors for our kids?” Those kind of decisions could be lost, he feared.
For the past few years, the district has used what it calls Results Based Budgeting in which each school gets a set amount per student and then gets to make many of the decisions about how best to spend that money, outside of state mandated and contractual mandated spending.
Principal Amy Carozza of Coliseum College Prep middle and high school said that flexibility is needed to answer the needs of kids who come to school from traumatic backgrounds.
Yee, bemoaning the continued inequity in achievement and opportunity for kids in low-income neighborhoods compared with those in wealthier areas, said modernizing the RBB system “Is the right thing to do.”
Moreover, the state is moving to Local Control Funding Formula by which districts will receive more money to educate kids who are low income, English language learners or foster kids – but must also be accountable for spending it on those students.
The board of education discussion Wednesday night will likely touch on all these issues.
Great Oakland Public Schools, a community organization advocating for improving educational quality here, is asking parents and school leaders to come to the meeting. GO believes “schools need more money, now. Schools need more decision making power.” It wants to see data and details on how the budget changes would affect schools before the board makes a final decision.
Board president David Kakishiba described the whole budget process debate in a subcommittee meeting earlier this fall.
“The issue of equity is what the board is trying to grapple with,” Kakishiba said. He asked the district for more details on Yee’s plan.
Wednesday night’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. at La Escuelita Education Center at 1050 2nd Avenue, Oakland.