Oakland Unified Proposing $9 Million in Midyear Budget Cuts to Schools
School board members Aimee Eng (left) and Roseann Torres listen to presentations about proposed budget cuts from OUSD staff at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting in Oakland on Dec. 6, 2017. The full board is expected to vote on the cuts Dec. 13. (Farida Jhabvala Romero/KQED)
The superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District plans to lay out the specifics of a proposal to cut $9 million from the district's budget during tonight's special school board meeting.
Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, a former OUSD teacher, is expected to announce that school budgets might shoulder about half of the potential cuts: $4.2 million. Those reductions could impact supplies and programs, as well as substitute teachers and staff that support offices and facilities.
Also at risk are funds for books, contracts for services and jobs in the district's central office. About 70 support, clerical and management employees could be affected either with reduced hours or layoffs, according to Trammell's presentation included in the agenda for tonight's meeting.
Trammell, who is in her first year as superintendent, says the district is grappling with the aftermath of years of mismanagement and overspending. The cuts are also needed, she says, because of rising costs for special education and state-mandated retirement. And, she notes, the district has seen enrollment drop.
The district's Board of Education must approve any budget cut. The board will receive a presentation tonight. A vote is expected next Wednesday.
"Nothing has been finalized," said district spokesman John Sasaki.
Just last month, Johnson-Trammell proposed budget cuts totaling $15 million, with about a third -- $5.6 million -- coming directly from school sites and the rest from the central office. The district says the revised plan comes after receiving additional information.
Parent Monica Kaldani-Nasif attended a budget committee meeting Wednesday. She said district administrators and school board members have not sufficiently explored other options to generate revenue and trim unnecessary costs. Cuts directly impacting the district's nearly 37,000 students are unacceptable, she said.
"Thousands and thousands of students, parents, community members should organize, should march, should email their school board representatives and say this is not acceptable either," said Kaldani-Nasif, whose kids attend Crocker Highlands Elementary and Edna Brewer Middle School.
The superintendent asked all principals to plan budget cuts of specific amounts and provided recommendations to do so. Schools were asked to consider cuts based on the amount of funding they get per student. That figure varies according to grade span.
Sondra Aguilera, deputy chief of student services for OUSD, told board members Wednesday that this is the "best option." She said a more tailored approach for cutting the budget at each school would be difficult, in part because some parent-teacher associations raise their own grants but are not required to report those funds to the district.
"We began to see this rabbit hole that we were going to go down mapping all the different sources," Aguilera said. "You can’t possibly map all the different sources that school sites receive."
School board member Roseann Torres, whose district includes the Fruitvale neighborhood, questions whether the proposed budget cuts would disproportionately affect schools with fewer outside resources.
"One of my schools in my district might be able to pick up thousands of dollars, whereas other schools in my district cannot," she said. "So it's going to be felt much more painfully."
Student Adriana Villegas, a senior at Skyline High School, said her school has already stopped hiring instructors for the performing arts, such as for choir and piano classes.
"Since those classes have been cut because we didn’t have anyone hired and we are not going to hire anyone, that has already affected what students in my school can take," Villegas said.
Calls to Skyline High School's principal and vice principal offices were not immediately returned.