Ever since California passed its historic new “Local Control” education funding law last year, school districts have been tasked with coming up with their own plans on how best to spend their education dollars as well as how to use supplemental grants to help students who are low-income, English learners or foster kids.
The Local Control and Accountability Plan, by law, has to include community input.
This week, administrators from Oakland Unified School District unveiled a tentative plan for spending $28 million in state grant money for low-income, English learner and foster child students, and a local accountability process that gives students an unprecedented say, through a newly formed “Student Advisory Council.” The district’s full budget for next year will be $519 million.
Students from every high school in the district lobbied for the creation of this council and several dozen celebrated Wednesday when the district backed the idea.
“By allowing student voices to be heard, we are making history,” said Pashael Dorsey, a junior at Oakland High School told the school board at the unveiling of the plan. She and other students had advocated for the students’ role through. Dorsey said she would ask the district to spend more money on resources like textbooks and on hiring more teachers so classes are not crowded. Another student, Naudika Williams, said she would advocate spending on safety, tutoring, and helping kids get on a path to college.
Oakland’s tentative LCAP plan would break new ground for the district in other ways, putting significant amounts of money toward recruiting and hiring more teachers and guidance counselors and into reading instruction, social and emotional learning programs, internships for high school students, accelerated English literacy programs for non-English speakers, and parent-engagement programs for low income families, and more.
In fact, the most common reaction among parents, teachers, and even board members listening to the LCAP plan at a board of education meeting this week was that it would spread the resources too thin, spending it on many things.
Rather than “sprinkle” the money on many programs, said director James Harris, who represents East Oakland. “Let’s focus” spending on core goals to make sure to achieve them. Reading and literacy training seemed to be the priority most cited.
PARENTS FEAR SOME SCHOOLS SHORTCHANGED
Since 77 percent of students in the district fit at least one of the categories of low-income, English learner or foster child, the grant money can be used for programs for all students in a school, in most cases.
However, it is allocated to schools by a formula that counts how many students fit these “high needs” categories and then awards grants based on that count and the concentration of such students – and because the district is fusing the state plan with its own Results Based Budgeting process that tries to help schools in high stress neighborhoods, some schools could be left with less money than other schools or possibly less than last year, some parents said Wednesday.
Edna Brewer Middle School could be one, parents said. In the formula OUSD has tentatively applied, this school could lose funding, even though 63 percent of its students fit the low-income or English learner categories. Parents say the school stands to lose as much as $100,000 next year and they believe that OUSD’s tentative plan does not follow the stipulations of the law in where funds should go.
In a petition signed by more than 230 parents, they state, “It is beyond comprehension that any school be receiving substantial cuts at a time when the state budget has increased spending to all California school districts. The state is not decreasing its base spending per student for any school district (even wealthy ones). Neither should OUSD. Doing so violates the spirit of LCFF.”
Edna Brewer is by some measures the most high-performing middle school in the district, so parents and students asked the board why they would jeopardize successful education.
“Taking money away from a school that works is punishing it for creativity,” said 6th grader Penelope Martindale.
In there petition, the Edna Brewer Parents said “Edna Brewer MS is not alone in receiving significant and difficult budget cuts. The redesigned allocation process and implementation plan will decrease budgets to schools with teaching staff with relatively low seniority, oversubscribed campuses, or a geographic location not in high stress areas but with a student population with high FRL rates or with significant proportion of students commuting daily from high stress neighborhoods. Since the OUSD endorses an ‘open options’ policy for enrollment, it is even more critical that the educational dollars follow individual students.”
Each school’s tentative budget can be seen in this district online document.
Under the Local Control Funding Formula, California public schools would be funded with a base grant of about $6,342 for each student that goes to their schools. In addition, schools will receive another 20 percent of that base amount for any student who is low-income, an English learner or a foster child. Then, schools with a concentration of such students, which include most of OUSD schools, would receive additional grants per student of about 22 percent of the base grant.
The base grant from the state will grow each year for the next seven years. Oakland Unified receives an average of $7,502 for each student this year. The sum will grow to $11,810 by the year 2020 under this formula.
Here’s a list of most of the spending items in Oakland’s Local Control and Accountability Plan:
For all students:
For low-income students:
For English learners:
For foster youth: