The Oakland school board voted Wednesday to change the district’s budgeting process to allocate funds based on school enrollment, send a greater percentage of general funds out to schools, and supply extra funds to help disadvantaged students and schools that lie in distressed neighborhoods.

The policy is part of a broad budgeting policy change proposed by Acting Superintendent Gary Yee that is aimed at bringing more equity to school funding in a district where some schools seem to have needed resources and others struggle. Yee’s plan calls for assuring that each school receives enough money to cover teacher salaries, provides discretionary funds to each school to spend how the school leadership believes would best serve its students, and supplies extra funds to schools with English learners, low-income and foster care students as well as to help schools overcome adverse neighborhood conditions.

After a wide discussion with comments from dozens of parents, teachers, students and principals, the Oakland Unified board passed a resolution that endorses the principles in Yee’s plan without approving an implementation process. The resolution, put forth by Board President David Kakishiba, also calls for 88 percent of general revenue funds to be spent at the schools, limiting the central administration budget to 12 percent from the current 13 percent. Like Yee’s broad plan, the resolution calls for aligning expenses to improve school quality and student outcomes at all schools.

Numerous students told the board that their schools do not have what students need and they begged the district for more money.

“There are a lot of things we don’t have at Fremont. We don’t have PE equipment, we don’t have functional computers,” said a senior at Fremont High School named Marquis.

Alex, a sophomore at Melrose Leadership Academy, said “I want high quality learning and I want opportunities that other students have.”

Many people applauded the board for approving the proposal — which they did unanimously. But it is still a shell of a broader plan and many people warned the board that unless it is careful in implementation, in watching how the budget making shakes out and what it brings to each school, the plan could backfire and hurt some schools.

A few principals and teachers from some needy schools warned that unless the board is careful, the policy on funding a core teaching staff could wind up reducing funds at their schools if too formulaic.

Even though Superintendent Yee’s goal in proposing the new system was to bring equity, help under-resourced schools, and end a pattern where schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods get the least experienced and lowest-paid teachers, while schools in areas where parents are able to donate money get more experienced teachers, some principals and teachers raised red flags.

They said that because the Yee’s implementation proposal uses a formula to allocate funds for teachers and their salaries, it takes away some autonomy on how a school uses money, and therefore how it answers students’ needs.

Fremont High School Principal Emiliano Sanchez told the board he agreed the old system needed to be changed, especially to help disadvantaged students, “but make sure you don’t supplant what is already working,” with something that doesn’t work as well. He said Fremont has made great strides in transforming school culture and student achievement and engagement and he doesn’t want to lose that.

In an interview, Sanchez explained that class sizes at Fremont average 23 students, but under the teacher staffing formula for providing core teaching staff at each school, class sizes would be 32 students, which could mean Fremont would have to reduce the number of teachers at the site. Fremont is already one of the three most under-resourced high schools in Oakland Unified School District.

Life Academy biology teacher Claire Crossett said that the plan to allocate teacher staffing funds by a formula takes decision-making power away from the school and thus from the people who know students’ needs best. “This budget system sends a very clear message: that our board members believe that the people closest to our students — our teachers parents and administrators — are unfit to effectively allocate funding to support our kids.”

On the flipside, Fremont and some other schools in East Oakland and West Oakland are staffed almost entirely by new teachers. Speakers at the meeting described how teachers with a mere two years’ experience are sometimes senior teachers leading departments.

Dr. Yee wants to move away from the former system that provided incentives to schools to hire new teachers so they could save money to spend on other things.

“I want a process that is accountable and transparent. It is not that you get every dollar you want but that everybody knows that staffing of core teachers is not dependent on (realizing) savings from high salary teachers,” he said.

“What we are trying to do is shift the paradigm in budgeting for schools from a dollar-based equity strategy to a service-based equity strategy. That is, instead of your principal having to go through the balancing pool to beg for teachers, we are committing to funding every teacher a school needs,” he said.

He said every school will also have discretionary funds for things like hiring reading specialists or more counselors, and that schools with students who are low-income, English learners or foster kids will get additional “supplemental” funding to help these students succeed. Thirdly, schools in distressed neighborhoods where pollution or poverty seem to play a role in students’ ability to perform in school will get additional funds: what the state calls “concentration funds.”

Providing “supplemental” and “concentration” funds is actually part of the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula and ushers from how the state supplies money to districts.

Exact rules on how districts can use those funds were to be discussed yesterday (January 16) by the State of California Board of Education, and possibly voted on.

Board members, while passing the policy unanimously, each stressed that being flexible and open to suggestions during the implementation of the policy will be key to assure it doesn’t do harm. They agreed to go slowly in formulating and passing a budget, holding many public hearings along the way, and vowed to numbers on the district’s website.

Yee and district staff said they anticipate next year’s unrestricted general fund will be $282 million and that school sites will get 88 percent of that. About $15 million will be supplemental and concentration grants to schools. In the current academic year (2013 – 14), the budget is $267 million, including about $11 million from the Local Control Funding Formula supplemental and concentration grant allocations.

Another reason for going slowly, pointed out parent Pecolia Manigo, who is a program manager for Parent Leadership Action Network in Oakland, is that the district hadn’t yet known what regulations would come down from the state on how districts can use the supplemental and concentration grants under the Local Control Funding Formula: “I find it interesting that you are comfortable making decisions before the regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula is passed.”

Those are expected to have been decided yesterday in Sacramento at a hearing of the State Board of Education.

14 Responses

  1. CaliLibby

    I do hope the district will consider the neighborhoods where the students actually LIVE over where their schools are located. A very large number of students in OUSD go to schools outside of their neighborhoods—often in better, less disadvantaged neighborhoods. The money needs to follow the STUDENT. That child still goes home to those neighborhoods. Do not take money from the school this child’s parent works so hard to get them to each and every school day. Obviously the schools in the poorer neighborhoods need more resources. But what we are hearing is this is a way for the district to punish what they consider “affluent” schools (where only the bare minimum staff is paid for by the district and everything else is paid for by begging neighbors, local businesses, co-workers, friends, family and out and out strangers on the street). These are not necessarily the despised “Hills” schools, but quite a few schools in the slopes, down 580 and the flats of North Oakland as well. Again, the money needs to go where the student goes. We’re all grabbing pieces of a too small pie, but taking the little that others have is not the road to equity.

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  2. Trish Gorham

    Thank you for a very thorough explanation of an extremely complicated and sometimes volatile topic.

    The Oakland Education Association is in favor of removing teacher salaries from site budgets as it has incentivized the churn of low-wage teachers in our most needy schools instead of supporting the growth of a stable educational community.

    It is our expectation that the money provided by the State through Local Control Funding Formulas, although entirely insufficient, starts us on a path of true equity, transparency, and increased site decision making in a way “Results” Based Budgeting never did.

    One small clarification: Money raised by parents cannot be used to supplement the salaries of classroom teachers.

    Trish Gorham, President
    Oakland Education Association

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  3. Jim Mordecai

    In economics there is often talk about the difference between wants and needs. Many want an economic system that doesn’t leave the poor behind with the direction being increasing lack of needs such as food security, safe neighborhood, jobs. California does not need to be near the bottom in the Nation in spending on K-12 and early childhood education. But, it is.

    In Oakland a State take-over brought in the budgeting system named by State Administrator Randy Ward Results Based Budgeting (RBB). Years later, finally a superintendent not tied to Broad Foundation, or to the Broad philosophy of running a District like a corporate business, tries to move quickly to address the flaws in the RBB imposed budgeting experiment; but some folks say don’t stop doing what is failing, lets slow down and wait until each school can see whether or not the change will harm them. Actually folks that want to maintain the current RBB budgeting system don’t see it failing because they are interested in what they get under the system and not interesting in climbing to the mountain top and looking out and seeing how the system is treating others. Superintendent Yee acknowledge that as a school site principal his primary interest was in obtaining resources for his site but as superintendent his position on high requires him to strive for what is best for all schools and all students and I believe it is to his credit that he wants to stop using a failed budgeting system imposed by the State on only Oakland. It has been years now and no other district in the state, or the world, as far as I know, has taken up the RBB budgeting approach whereby both attendance rather than enrollment determines for a school site budget and the full cost of each employee is indexed to a school. A few districts such as San Francisco have tried site based budgeting based on a student weighted formula that weighted on school site budgets the average cost of a school’s employees. But, again neither San Francisco nor any other district has used the actual cost of employees.

    The idea of having the resources follow the student seems reasonable. Many that embrace the idea perhaps have not considered challenges the approach might provide. For example poverty is a huge problem in Oakland with the accompanying problems associated with a school district that has somewhere near 80% of its enrollment challenged by poverty.

    All parents do not have the same capacity to play the system and get their children enrolled in the few schools without a large percentage of the enrollment associated with poverty and/or prefer to enroll students as close to home as possible. Perhaps the voucher approach will just heat up the competition to get into the few schools with the lowest amount of students from poverty. Identifying the schools with the highest concentration of poverty and providing them with programs that would not be able to be funded under the voucher approach has advantages that greater funding provides but it also suffers from the same problem that the voucher approach can’t address. The problem is that the amount of funding is too inadequate to meet the basic needs of students. No matter how you structure it, an inadequately funded education system is still inadequately funded and its inadequate funding does not allow for basic needs to be met.

    Is concentrating funding on the economically poorest schools a better approach than the voucher idea? I don’t know. I believe in the long run neither idea will prevent lots of dreams drying up like raisins in the sun unless funding education is a higher priority and poverty is reduced across this nation.

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  4. Len Raphael

    1. What percentage of total budget do other East Bay school districts spend compared to OUSD?

    2. My understanding is that years ago OUSD chose not to bus kids the way Berkeley did. Did Berkeley’s approach result in more successful schools for all the kids?

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  5. Jim Mordecai

    Len:

    What percent is spent on central administration in districts across California is a good question. It is hard to find the answer as it is an economic question with economic questions being associated with lies and damn lies.

    Additionally, the question involves percentages and there is opportunity to avoid apples to apples comparison. For example, a district administrator for libraries on a spread sheet could be defined as working a fraction of time for each school in a district that has libraries and classified as not a central cost be the administrator is centrally located. Percentages can be misleading.

    But, my insight into what happened when a law requires a district’s money to be allocated within a district by a required percentage is based on my observation of the state law that requires unified school districts to spend a minimum of 55% of a district’s budget on its classroom workers’ salaries.

    The fact is San Francisco and Oakland are two of the few districts across the state that constantly fail to pay the required 55% in classroom workers’ salaries.

    What has happened is the law is on the books but not enforced. This year Oakland was found by Alameda County Superintendent Jordan to three years ago to have shorted classroom workers millions of dollars in salary falling $10.6 million below the required 55% of the District budget.

    But, in Superintendent Jordan’s letter to Oakland School Board President Kakishiba, the county superintendent decided, although Oakland had the funding to pay its workers, she would not enforce the 55% rule.

    Oakland and San Francisco, although violating the 55% rule, have never had to pay one dollar to their workers for not following the law. In Oakland the county superintendent is responsible for enforcing the 55% rule but in San Francisco the School District is both city and county. That means the law is enforced or not enforced by the County Superintendent who is at the same time the District Superintendent.

    Finding out how much is spent on central administration verses school sites across the state would be a challenge; and, a law that required a minimum spent on a school site would, in practice, be very difficult to enforce. Then you would also have to decide if you would want the law to apply to charter schools. Currently, the 55% rule requiring districts to pay a minimum percentage of their budgets in classroom workers salaries does not apply to charter schools.

    Your other question about Berkeley and busing impacting central verses school site budgeting is off the mark because busing in Berkeley was about integration of the schools. Busing is a central expenditure. And, charter schools have blown away and reversed integration policies across this nation.

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  6. Len Raphael

    Jim, I see you point how it is much clearer to look at the required expenditure on teacher salaries than to get into quagmire of “is it admin or is it allocable local school expense.”

    Reason I asked about Berkeley busing wasn’t about admin costs, but whether busing had reduced the rich school poor school fighting, by spreading poor kids and “rich” kids around somewhat evenly? Might also have spread affluent parent fund raising efforts around more evenly than in Oakland.

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  7. M2aj

    I’m a teacher in Fremont who recently moved our family to Oakland. I know I need to do more research on how the budget is handled here, but upon reading this I am appalled! Schools have to budget their own teacher salaries? What??? Gee, I wonder why so many schools are failing here!! Teacher quality has been shown to be the direct link to student success in so many studies, I don’t know where to begin. So OUSD’s strategy for success is to put the lowest-experienced, lowest-paid teachers in the lowest performing schools? That’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!
    Even the highest paid teacher in Oakland makes about 20,000 less than the average teacher in ANY Fremont school. Our district boasts the highest ratings in all of the Bay Area and don’t try to dismiss in on ethnicity. We are extremely diverse. What appears to be the problem here is horrible management! Every district gets the same per-pupil funding from the state-administrators decide how to distribute it. Oakland Unified needs to spend a huge chunk of change hiring a highly-qualified and experienced leader to manage funds and personnel correctly. Putting out small fires and making slight changes is just spinning wheels.

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  8. Jim Mordecai

    Fremont Teacher:

    The idea of having each school pay the full cost of their teachers was an accounting system installed by State Administrator Randy Ward when the State was in control of the District due to bankruptcy.

    The Oakland School Board at its last meeting voted to change that policy.

    Actually, every school district doesn’t get the same funding. Federal Title I funding goes to districts impacted by poverty; and a whole list of supplemental programs are going to districts with narrowly defined student enrollment characteristics.

    Under Governor Brown’s new budgeting policy districts with enrolled students in poverty, and English as a second language students, will get a little more state funding than districts with enrollment that lack such identity.

    Fremont unified school district, unlike Oakland, has never fallen below the minimum required 55% of its budget being spent on classroom workers’ salaries. Oakland in this year’s budget is $2 million short of the required 55%. Spending on other things than teachers’ salaries is the reason that Oakland can’t manage to compete in salary with Fremont.

    Unlike Fremont, paying the classroom teacher is just not an Oakland School Board priority. Besides not paying the minimum percentage of the school budget on classroom teachers, your following quote makes my case that classroom teacher salary is a low priority: “Even the highest paid teacher in Oakland makes about 20,000 less than the average teacher in ANY Fremont school.” In Oakland the Board robs Peter to pay Paul and Paul is hired as a consultant.

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  9. Len Raphael

    Jim, re. the issue about percentage OUSD spends on teachers: didn’t OUSD administration used to say that OUSD (for reasons not clear to me) had an unusually high number of speed needs teachers who were classified as consultants but functioned as teachers?

    Fremont Teacher: when comparing average teacher salaries, is that 20k difference after factoring in fringe benefits, vacation leave etc. aka ‘total cost of compensation?”

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  10. Jim Mordecai

    Len:

    I don’t know about any consultants doing the work of special education teachers. Of course the teacher’s union would be greatly upset to find out that the District was outsourcing its members jobs. If you or anyone reading this learns of such outsourcing of the jobs of special education teachers please contact the teachers’ union with such information.

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  11. livegreen00

    Overall a very good article (esp. by Oakland local standards…which in all fairness seem to be increasing).

    The one area I would appreciate for those new to the process is the background on OUSD’s up to now budgeting system called Results Based Budgeting or RBB. This would also address Fremont Teachers questions.

    RBB essentially had the $ follow the students to school sights, including teachers salaries. The logic was that wealthier schools had more senior & therefor higher salaried teachers, so without RBB more $ were given to those wealthier schools (also a higher amount per student).

    By using RBB to make sure the $ followed the student, schools in poorer areas with less senior teachers would have $ left over to spend on more staff & programs (their choice: more wrap around programs, more teachers so there would be less students in a class, or Teachers Assistants (T/As), etc.

    At the recent meeting(s!) the reason parents & principals have warned OUSD & the Board to not just return to the pre-RBB system is because then you just resurrect the exact same pre-RBB problems & we’re right back to where we started again! Running in circles like a dog chasing it’s tail…

    Reply

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