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.

About The Author

Barbara Grady is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach her at barbara@oaklandlocal.com

One Response

  1. Jim Mordecai

    The rest of the story behind this quote below is that the principal quoted in this article “Oakland schools budgeting process up for discussion on Wednesday” is by a turncoat Oakland elementary school principal that lead his school into becoming a charter school.

    “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. ”

    The fact is that the OUSD budgeting system currently being used was put in place by State Administrator with dictator powers, Randy Ward, who called his experiment Results Based Budgeting (RBB). A few other districts have experimented with similar kind of budgeting system classified as a weighted student formula. But, Oakland is the only district that charges each school with the actual cost of each teacher.

    On Wednesday night Superintendent Dr. Gary Yee provided a lecture (although long) that was brilliant in demonstrating the many ways this current RBB budgeting system is dysfunction and doesn’t reach the equity goals it was suppose to obtain.

    The Oakland School Board treated the request of Superintendent Yee to replace the current budgeting system as a first reading of the motion and a vote will be taken by the Board in January.

    Why does Charter School Principal Fuch’s folks not want to move to a system that removes the actual cost of a teacher and replaces it with the average cost. Economics says because they would not have an incentive to hire young low cost teachers and get to spend the saved money on their wish list.

    Under Randy’s RBB year after year since the District has failed to spend required by State law amount of its budget on the District’s classroom teachers. It could be economic attraction of low cost teachers has been unintended consequence of the RBB budgeting system. Oakland never ran afoul of not complying with spending the minimum of its budget on its classroom personnel prior to the State take-over and RBB. And, Oakland is the only district in the state having so much trouble expending the minimum on its classroom teachers.

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