For the last two months, OCO leaders have been attending Oakland Unified School District board meetings to convince the board to approve policies that make sure the promises of Prop. 30 and LCFF get realized in our schools. To its credit, the board approved a new school budgeting policy that promises to allocate more money to schools, empower school communities and direct funds to the students with the most need. However, our work is not done. The following letter is one of a few that we’ve sent to the board to make sure they hear our concerns:

January 15, 2014

Dear OUSD Board Members and Superintendent Gary Yee,

We call on the OUSD Board and Administration to pass and implement a budget policy that fulfills the promise of equitable, full-service community schools in Oakland Unified School District.

For years, our districts and schools have faced declining revenues. This year, we have a historic opportunity, not only as a result of the passage of Prop 30 and Local Control Funding Formula, but because of California’s strengthening economy. Last week, we learned that Governor Brown’s budget proposal includes restitution of deferred payments to school districts across California AND an increase above what was originally expected in LCFF dollars this year. After years of declining revenues, OUSD and districts across the state will see increasing revenues for the 2014-15 school year.

We ask Board members to vote yes in support of the Special Committee Budgeting Proposal being considered this evening.

We recognize that the current budgeting system does not serve all schools and all students equitably. Passing this proposal will take us a step closer to achieving our goal of ensuring the greatest equity for the greatest number of students and schools across Oakland.

For this reason, we ask you to:

1. Increase the amount of money that goes to every school site to ensure that all schools have the resources to meet their students’ needs.

  • We need to ensure that these resources are allocated to school site budgets immediately. School communities are currently engaged in the process of Community School Site Strategic Plan Development (CSSSP) and budget development – using data to identify key goals, priorities and strategies for the coming year. We need to ensure that schools have the resources to support effective strategies that directly serve student needs.
  • We support the proposal to cap central administration funding at 12%, which would enable additional funds to be sent to school sites.
  • We also support addressing the issue of the Balancing Pool so that every school has the resources necessary to meet the needs of their students. School site budgeting for 2014-15 has already begun and budgets are required to be approved by February 15th. We support the superintendent’s goal of addressing this critical and urgent need as an issue of fairness and equity. We need to ensure that schools that have received money through the Balancing Pool be provided with the resources necessary to meet their school needs for the 2014-15 school year NOW.

2. Ensure the money generated by students with greatest need follows them to their school sites.

  • OUSD has the opportunity to model for the state how to make the promise of Prop 30 and LCFF for students with greatest need a reality. Students with greatest need – low-income, English Learners and Foster Youth – require more adults who are in relationship with them to support their success at their school sites. We need to send more money to school sites to pay for these critical staff and other supports.
  • We support the Special Committee proposal to allocate resources to schools based on the base, supplemental, and concentration formula and to provide additional resources to high schools as outlined by LCFF.
  • We also support the idea of exploring the superintendent’s innovative and equity-based proposal to consider environmental factors in school neighborhoods in the development of the 2014-15 Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals and budget for approval this June. Allocating additional LCFF funds that are held centrally for district level goals to address the needs of LCFF qualifying students attending schools that are located in areas experiencing additional environmental factors, such as high rates of crime and violence, as part of the process of developing our district level LCAP for the 2014-15 school year is very powerful. For example, additional resources could be used to hire school-based staff who could work with individuals and groups of students to address the emotional, psychological and physical impacts of gun violence in and around their school campuses.

3. Protect local decision-making authority for school communities.

  • OUSD’s 5-Year Strategic Plan, School Governance and Family Engagement Policies all recognize families, students and communities as key decision-makers and powerful partners in improving student academic, social and emotional outcomes. The School Governance Policy that you are addressing tonight begins with the statement that “Those who are closest to students at a school — employees, parents, students, community partners – are generally in the best position to know their specific academic, social and emotional needs of their students, and how to best address those needs.”
  • Over the past 13 years, communities across Oakland have worked to transform schools to better serve low income students of color in the flatlands. The core conditions that have been identified to make this possible are shared decision-making around staffing, curriculum, budget and schedule at the school site level.
  • We oppose a staffing formula and any policy changes or administrative actions that reduce the decision-making authority of school communities to make powerful decisions on behalf of improved student outcomes – especially critical for low-income students of color in our District.

4. Make responsible, transparent, inclusive data-based decisions to strengthen our current budgeting systems.

  • We understand that school budgeting is complex and that the current system does not meet the needs of many school communities. For exactly these reasons, we must have actual data on how a new budget allocation system will impact all schools before we make a decision. School site budgeting for 2014-15 has already begun; it is irresponsible to adopt a new system on this timeframe without appropriate information.
  • We support the Board’s action at the December 11, 2013 meeting to issue a Request for Proposal to bring in an outside consultant to evaluate our current budget practices and help us to develop an improved budgeting system.
  • We support convening a Committee that includes key school site and district level stakeholders to develop proposed budget policy changes and a clear implementation plan for the 2015-16 school year. The proposed plan would include operational systems changes; capacity building for district and school-based staff, and parent, student and community stakeholders; and a clear timeline for successful implementation for the 2015-16 school year.
  • We oppose major changes to our current budgeting system, including a shift from the use of actual to average teacher salaries for the purposes of budgeting in advance of the development of recommendations from the Committee based on data about how the shifts would impact equity for students across our District.

OUSD’s 5-Year Strategic Plan and the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula both reflect the core belief and a theory-of-action based in the idea of “subsidiarity” – the idea that those closest to problems are best equipped to develop and implement solutions to them. LCFF underscores the importance of including parents and students in these processes, by identifying parent engagement as one of the eight priorities for districts across the state. The proposed LCAP template that the State Board of Education will vote on tomorrow also highlights both parent and student engagement in LCAP development. It is critical that as we move forward in fully realizing the promise of LCFF, we work together.

We look forward to working with all of you and in collaboration with other OUSD district-level and site-based stakeholders in the creation of the LCAP for the 2014-15 school year.

While we have concerns regarding the timeline and some of the proposals in the Superintendent’s current implementation plan; we do not support the status quo.

We look forward to working with you to create long-term systems change in a timely yet thoughtful manner. We support creating the most equitable and effective budgetary approach, systems and tools possible for transparent equity-based and inclusive budgeting practices that lead to improved student outcomes, especially for students with greatest need, in the 2015-16 school year and beyond.

Thank you for your consideration.

In unity,

Oakland Community Organizations

Education Committee Leaders

This letter was sent earlier this week:

Dear OUSD Board Members and Superintendent Gary Yee,

We who speak to you as OCO leaders tonight come representing over 70 congregations and schools across Oakland that are member institutions of Oakland Community Organizations. And we represent our commitment over many years to the goal of better and more equitable outcomes for schools in every neighborhood of Oakland. Two years ago, OCO turned out thousands of votes for Prop 30 and Measure J, and in 2013 we went to Sacramento countless times to push Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) forward. In 2014, we look forward to working with the board and district leadership to continue raising the bar and raising funding for our schools. We want to thank you for passing a clear and equitable budget policy at your last meeting to send more money to schools next year and in future years. This policy is a big step towards realizing the promise of Prop 30 and LCFF for all our students, especially for our flatland families and low-income students of color.

But after so many years of cut after cuts to our schools, we may be on our way out of the wilderness, but we are still a long way from the land of milk and honey. At too many of our schools, there is no money this year for the most basic supplies. At the same time, reading intervention, truancy prevention, and violence prevention services have been cut at school after school after school. And our students are suffering the consequences of those cuts, because as you know, the $4.5 million of LCFF funding that you voted to send to schools last June never arrived. There were many important reasons why that money was not available after all, but the consequence is that too many schools are down to the bare bones, and bare bones does not equal success for our kids.

Last December 11, you heard the state trustee state that she would not veto a proposal to send $1.5 million from the reserves to the schools for immediate relief of budget pain. OCO leaders have met with many of you, and have been glad to hear there is support on the board for this proposal. Given the good news we are so happy to hear tonight about the Governor’s education budget, please take action and vote to send this money out as soon as possible, or it will be too late for schools to make good use of the funds for this year. Thank you again for all you do for our kids.

Sincerely,

Oakland Community Organizations

Education Committee Leaders