The Education Bet We Should Make-Child-Parent Education Centers

We are at a rare moment when public opinion and education research are aligned in California and we need to seize the day.  A recent poll showed that 67% of Californian’s supported increased taxes on the wealthy to fund early childhood programs.  Almost simultaneously Education Week reported on a remarkable study out of Chicago showing that quality early childhood support paid significant dividends to individuals and society.  Specifically, Child-Parent Education Centers (CPCs) returned investments at greater than a 10 to 1 for the public and had cumulative returns of 900% for the individuals.

Money, well spent, really matters in education.  And there are investments we can make that demonstrably pay off financially, not to mention the humane benefits of not living in poverty, and having the tools to be empowered.

I have often critiqued California’s school funding as being too low and highly inequitable.  To which many readers point out that there is wasted money in the schools and school system.  And this isn’t an excuse for waste, which occurs everywhere, but it is a case for proactive investment in things we know work.

A program that pays off

Education week reviewed the success of Chicago’s Child-Parent Education Centers, which have been operating since 1967, noting outstanding success,

CPC has one of the highest economic returns of any public or private financial investment. Cost-benefit analyses have shown that for every dollar invested, more than $10 is returned in cost savings in the areas of remedial education and criminal justice, coupled with an increase in economic well-being and tax revenues. That is an inflation-adjusted annual return of 18 percent over a child’s lifetime, a cumulative return of 900 percent… The strong success of the program’s first generation of schools was evident early on. Graduates performed on average six months ahead of their nonprogram peers in school-readiness skills. This success has been reproduced in the current program expansion. That and other impacts—such as higher rates of high school diploma attainment and college graduation, lower rates of crime and health-compromising behaviors, and greater economic well-being—have been sustained for decades.

These centers are working and they continue to work as the program grows.  It is important to look at the structure for clues to their success, and there are some obvious though underutilized gems that we should take away. I particularly appreciate the inter-generational (they are “parent-child” centers) and collaborative approach with families, again from Edweek,

After five decades and more than 250,000 families served, the CPC program is arguably one of the nation’s most effective social programs. Now in its third generation as a P-3 school-reform model, the program and its unique success provide an approach and set of action steps to innovate in education to produce even better investment returns. Collaborative leadership, engaged learning, small classes, and comprehensive family and instructional supports are core elements.

Developing and growing high quality programs is always challenging, but the elements here are relatively simple, and don’t rely on bells and whistles, but relationships and responsiveness.  Everything they are doing there we could be doing here.

The Public Supports these Investments

The latest polling from the Latino Policy Coalition and the CA NAACP shows strong support for investments in early childhood, and hopefully will move us to action.

The statewide poll was around a specific ballot measure that would provide,

$1.5 billion dollars in annual funding to increase living wages for teachers and educational staff; expand the availability of early childhood education for working parents; and improve classrooms and educational facilities.

Which 67% of likely voters agreed with, alongside some other findings of general support for investments in Early Childhood Education, specifically,

  • 75% say early childhood education programs are effective in preparing children ages 0-5 for school.
  • 78% say California has a great, some or a little need for additional funding for early childhood education. Just 14% say there is no need for additional funding.
  • 80% support using funding to improve existing early childhood education programs

So the public believes in the effectiveness of early childhood education, there is strong evidence that quality programs deliver tangible benefits to individuals and society and we have working models that we can draw from.

Why don’t we do this?

That’s a damn good question.

 

 

What’s Happening in Oakland Education the Week of October 9th and Beyond

Everything Oakland education, this week, OUSD and ACOE board meetings, the OUSD college Fair, OUSD Blueprint surveys are due, Michael Kirst on California’s reforms, Mills Teacher Scholars gathering, volunteer opportunities at the Alameda Food Bank, ways to help teachers, grants for murals and more take a look and share

 10/9/2017 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM Community Advisory Committee for Special Education-Committee members and other participants will hear learnings from the September Study Session about school-site support for Special Education in OUSD and discuss initiatives and changes currently underway for Special Education. -Bret Harte Middle School 3700 Coolidge Avenue Oakland, CA 94602

10/9 5:30- Special Meeting of the OUSD Board of Education covering Core Values and Getting to the Future State, you can see the agenda here, Conference Room, Offices of the National Equity Project, 1720 Broadway – 4th Floor, Oakland, CA 94612-2149

10/10/2017 6:30 PM Community Meeting the OUSD school Year is Changing Join Sondra Aguilera, OUSD Senior Deputy Chief of Continuous School Improvement, and Jenine Lindsey, Director of Labor, for a community meeting about future school year calendars. Learn more about the changes and share your thoughts by taking our survey at www.ousd.org/newfirstday! La Escuelita 1050 2nd Ave. Oakland, CA 94606

 10/10 6:30 PM ACOE Board Meeting- Board Room of the Alameda County Office of Education at 313 W. Winton Avenue, Hayward.

 10/10 4:30pm -Join us and 50+ college reps at the OUSD College Fair next Tues, at Oakland Tech

10/11/2017 4:00 PM OUSD Board of Education La Escuelita, Great Room 1050 Second Avenue Oakland , CA, you can see the agenda here

10/11/2017 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM The GIRL Project Shine Workshop-Free for girls ages 11-14 living in the San Antonio district of Oakland. Come on down after school dismissal for art and dance classes. Food and homework support available throughout the session Workshops will be held every Wednesday from 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM through December 13. Doors open at 1:00 PM. EastSide Cultural Center 2277 International Blvd. Oakland, CA 94606Questions? Please contact Shaunnah Ray, [email protected]

10/12 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Mills Teacher Scholars Gather Join Mills Teacher Scholars at Mills College for a gathering of current teacher scholars, Mills Teacher Scholars’ alumni, and friends. Enjoy dinner and wine while you learn, share, and connect with colleagues from around the Bay. We encourage you to invite friends and colleagues. Please RSVP soon–we have a limited number of spaces. More info and registration here

 10/13 last day to complete Blueprint for quality schools survey-We need our  voices to be heard, OUSD hosted a series of Blueprint for Quality Schools meetings last week. If you weren’t able to join, you can still provide your input! Please complete an online survey so that OUSD leadership can understand your priorities for our school sites over the next 5 years. Go to www.ousd.org/blueprintsurvey to complete an online survey 

10/14-10/15 Network for Public Education Annual Conference, the conference schedule and information can be found here

10/16 12:00-1:15 pm – California School Reform: What Is It, How Is It Going, and Why?Speaker: Michael Kirst Location: – at Stanford (CERAS), Learning Hall, Room 101 Free and open to the public RSVP: [email protected]

10/17-18- What is Waldorf-Inspired Trauma-Sensitive Education? by Mr. Bernd Ruf Tuesday, Oct. 17, 6pm – 7pm How To Care For the Care Giver by Dr. Christopher Huditz, MD, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6pm – 7pm at the Community School for Creative Education 2111 International Boulevard, Oakland California

 10/18 5-8 p.m. -LCAP PSAC General Meeting Oakland High School 1023 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94610 The LCAP PSAC will finalize elections for the nominations presented in May 2016 and review samples of school site snapshots combining population, investment, staff retention, and student outcome data. The committee will also receive an update for the 2017-18 budget with emphasis on strategies and investments included in the 2017-20 LCAP. Please RSVP at [email protected]  or 510-491-6069

10/23 8 a.m. and 10/24 4 p.m. – Leading for Equity Institute (Two-Day, Non-Residential) The Leading For Equity™ Institute provides ample opportunities for sharing, reflection, and planning. We develop individual and collective leadership at every level of schools, districts, foundations or nonprofit organizations to develop capacity to foster positive change on behalf of historically under-served students and families. Participants deepen their commitment, relationships, and efficacy while developing strategies toward equity goals. Teams receive expert, caring guidance and facilitation to work together to address the personal and technical challenges they face in their educational equity efforts.

10/24 5:30 – 7:30PM School Closures: Are They Necessary? Oakland’s History and Avoiding Harm to Students  Holy Names University, Founders Hall Bay Vista Room, 3500 Mountain Blvd, Oakland. Please join us for a discussion of Oakland’s history with school closures and the academic research on the impact of school closures. Please RSVP.

10/24 5:30-7:30 p.m. – Foster Youth Advisory Committee Skyline High School -Current and former foster students, foster parents and caregivers, community advocates for foster youth, LCAP leaders, staff, and other community members of the Foster Youth Advisory will continue their work in the following chosen areas of focus for 2017-18 (see above) and will receive updates of 2017-18 LCAP actions and investments in support of foster students. Please RSVP at [email protected]  or 510-491-6069 

10/24 – Come join us for this three part  financial literacy series! Through these workshops you will learn about credit, budgeting, choosing the right financial institution, and financial goal setting. You will also get the opportunity to learn about financial resources, such as pre-paid cards and secured credit cards, offered by Community Financial Resources (CFR). CFR is a local organization that supports individuals with low to moderate income with money management and financial education.
The three workshop topics will be:
10/24: Setting Goals
11/14: Money Flow
12/12: Financial Toolkit
Each workshop will be complemented with worksheets that you can take home and share with your community, and that you can use to support you with implementing the practices in your personal life.

10/27 12-7pm- Calling All Student Activists Kapor Center for Social Impact, 2148 Broadway Oakland, CA 94612.  The Kapor Center is hosting a Tech + Student Activism Hackathon, aimed at creating solutions to improve college climates for underrepresented communities.  All students are welcome!  Sign up here. 

10/28 10:30AM – 2:30PM College Prep Workshop Oakland Public Library: Temescal Branch, 2505 Telegraph Avenue Oakland 94609.  Join Strive Survive Succeed for their college prep workshop to learn about transitioning from high-school to college, identifying interests that lead to college majors, and participate in a college experience panel with Q&A.  It’s a free event for youth ages 13 to 18.  Lunch will be provided.  Sign up today

11/1 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.Decolonizing California History Join us in our November lecture to deconstruct the mainstream narrative about the history California.  Let’s examine this narrative from a decolonized lens.  by California Indian Museum and Cultural Center  California Indian Museum & Cultural Center, 5250 Aero Drive , Santa Rosa, CA 95403

11/1 9:30AM Urban Promise Academy in Oakland – Fall 2016 Tour Urban Promise Academy , Oakland

11/1 ACA Open Enrollment– 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA / Obamacare) starts November 1 and ends December 15. The 45th has cut the ADVERTISING funds to announce when people can enroll. Copy and paste to circulate.

11/2-11/4 Office of Equity Forum The Oakland Unified School District and the National Equity Project invite you to experience our ENGAGE, ENCOURAGE, EMPOWER approach to realizing My Brother’s Keeper’s vision in a citywide system of schools. Register here. As part of the Fall Forum, attendees are invited to attend AAMA’s ManUp! Conference, a full day of engagement, encouragement, and empowerment for grades 3-12. Participants will engage in a variety of workshops focused on mind, spirit and body, as well as media literacy and professional etiquette, alongside mentors, teachers and community members. Click HERE to see highlights from the 2015 ManUp! Conference.

11/14– Creating the Conditions for Teacher Learning Workshop More information coming soon on this day-long workshop at Mills College for principals, coaches, and other school and district leaders. Focus will be on how to create the conditions that support high-quality teacher learning that leads to improvement in instructional practice.  Stay tuned for additional details about how to register for this professional learning opportunity.

11/30 Designing Making Experiences The Lighthouse Creativity Lab is offering a two-day intensive workshop for educators eager to integrate making in school into their own practice.  Spend two days planning a K-12 making project or unit of your choice and leave with a project example made by you. While being immersed in a making environment, you will make and develop, test and troubleshoot the making curriculum or project of your choice for your K-12 classroom or school.

12/16 West Oakland School and Resource Fair Public · Hosted by Enroll Oakland Charters Oakland families are invited to learn more about their public school options. There will be:
* School Booths (Elementary, Middle, High schools) – Visit with school principals, teachers and families

* Enrollment Booths – Explore and compare public schools using Oakland’s school finder. Get help with your online application and/or enroll online.

* Resource Booths – Learn more about support services provided by local community organizations.

Opportunities/Funding for educators

 Teachers: Free Field Trips to the Exploratorium this Fall. Take BART to the Exploratorium and get free admission for your class, plus free round-trip BART tickets. Register at exploratorium.edu/BART or email [email protected]

10/15 – School Retool Fellowship Application: Oakland Winter 2018 Cohort Educate78’s School Design Lab and the Rogers Family Foundation, in support and collaboration with Oakland Unified School District, are excited to announce a second Oakland-based School Retool. Cohort.School Retool is open to school leaders in public schools throughout Oakland. We are seeking leaders who want to change the status quo of public education, are passionate about access to Deeper Learning for all students, are willing and ready to try out a new, immersive learning experience, and are committed to fully participating in the work of the fellowship. You can find more info here

 9/19 – 11/30 Apply for Paint the Town!  Apply for Oakland’s new street mural programfrom September 19th – November 30th.  This pilot program allows community members to paint temporary street murals on Oakland’s roads.  Make sure to come to an application clinic hosted at an Oakland Public Library, where community members can learn about the program and receive assistance on applications.  Attending a clinic is not required to apply but they encourage you to come!  The dates and locations of the clinics are available on the website.  If you have more questions, email [email protected] and visit the website for all application materials.

12/16 – West Oakland School and Resource Fair Public · Hosted by Enroll Oakland Charters

Oakland families are invited to learn more about their public school options. There will be:
* School Booths (Elementary, Middle, High schools) – Visit with school principals, teachers and families
* Enrollment Booths – Explore and compare public schools using Oakland’s school finder. Get help with your online application and/or enroll online.
* Resource Booths – Learn more about support services provided by local community organizations.

How you can help

Help an Oakland student and educator whose home was destroyed by fire. Huber was an Education for Change student, and is now an Education for Change teacher in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. He and his family represent Oakland at its best, and in the early hours of Friday, September 8th, they awoke to their home on fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but you can imagine the pain, stress, frustration, and anger in seeing your family home on fire. We are asking that you donate whatever you can to help Huber and his family respond to this loss quickly so that he can resume the job he loves and support his family. Help spread the word!

Support students with Listening Tools – A strong listening center is much needed in all elementary school classrooms. The stacks of CD’s and cassettes on a day to day for engagement, enrichment in both love for learning and academic standards. My students need a protected space with a CD player and timers to listen, learn and be heard.  Be the first to donate | $484 still needed, Ms. Semana Aspire College Academy, Oakland CA

Bring Coding and Engineering to Life with Lego Robots at Oakland Sol. This is the second phase of our great robot adventure, where students experiment with engineering concepts and coding practice, as well as learning about the design phases of a technical project. My students need these EV3 Mindstorms kits to take their skills to the next level! 2 donors | $466 still needed… Give to Mr. Davis

October Morning Volunteers Needed at Alameda County Community Food Bank Alameda County Community Food Bank 7900 Edgewater Dr Oakland, 94621.  Harvest Season has begun!  Truckloads of fresh produce that need to be sorted and bagged are coming in daily.  Helping hands are urgently needed in October to ensure that the large quantities of incoming produce get out the door — and into the community!  To find out more about dates or to register for a shift, go here.  If you have a group of 5 or more, please go to Weekday Group Volunteering.  Information about other Food Bank volunteer opportunities can be found at www.accfb.org/volunteer.

 

 

 

The Oakland Education Roundup Week of October 6th

Our weekly look back on everything Oakland education; the OUSD budget and enrollment numbers, good looks at homelessness in Oakland and beyond, the latest CA poll numbers, recaps of OUSD meetings, opportunities to help educators and more, please take a look

If you want this regularly please follow me on FacebookTwitter or subscribe to the blog at the bottom of this page or on the right side.

Contents-Oakland

The Good the Bad and the Troubling in the OUSD Budget
Opinion: It Should Not Take A Natural Disaster in Oakland
The Report Oakland Needs to Read
Oakland shelter gives homeless teen hope for a future
Amid affluence, youth homelessness surges in the Bay Area
Opinion | The Wrong Way to Fight Gangs
GO Oakland Roundup: October 5, 2017 Digest
Breaking the Cycle in Oakland- A Woke Grandparent’s Story – Great School Voices

For Oakland youth and Families

Radio and Podcasting Class for Youth from KALW and EOYDC
Free Flu Vaccine Available For All Participating Oakland Elementary Schools

Meeting recaps

OUSD audit Committee 
Measure N – College and Career Readiness Commission
OUSD Budget and Finance committee
Community Advisory Committee for Special Education
California
New poll: ‘Safe and positive school environment’ more important than higher test scores
Lawsuit: Foster child died after ingesting meth for second time
Schools face challenge bringing homeless children out of the shadows.
Shelters, cars and crowded rooms
LA County Office admits it shouldn’t have approved Long Beach’s LCAP

Best of the Rest

Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular
Latino dropout rate hits new low as college enrollment hits record high

Educator Opportunities

School Retool Fellowship Application

How you can help

Help an Oakland student and educator whose home was destroyed by fire
Support students with Listening Tools
Bring Coding and Engineering to Life with Lego Robots

Oakland

The Good the Bad and the Troubling in the OUSD Budget
Oakland Unified finally got some good news in its enrollment numbers, but there is still a financial crisis and given some statements by staff there is an even larger cultural crisis.

The Report Oakland Needs to Read
OUSD’s predicament of being a declining enrollment district while charter schools grow is not unique and it needn’t be so painful according to a new report out.

Oakland shelter gives homeless teen hope for a future
An audio story on the challenges facing homeless students in Oakland and the resources available to them, like the Dreamcatcher Youth Shelter.

Amid affluence, youth homelessness surges in the Bay Area
Nearly 15,000 children living in shelters, motels, cars or “doubled up” with other families.

Opinion | The Wrong Way to Fight Gangs
The administration thinks law enforcement is the answer, but education works better. Their story looks at Oakland International High School.

OUSD Audit Committee meeting was held on 10/2, you can see the agenda here

GO Oakland Roundup: October 5, 2017 Digest Dear GO Supporter, Welcome to the GO Oakland Roundup for the first week of October. In this edition, we’d like to update you on some tough decisions being faced by OUSD, as well as exciting developments within.

To honor Latinx Heritage Month, Latinx Literature read in we hosted a citywide appreciation of Latinx writers and illustrators from October 2-6, schools across Oakland will host volunteer read-alouds in classrooms, Family Literacy Nights, cross-grade buddy reading, and more.

Measure N – College and Career Readiness Commission met on 10/3, you can see the agenda here

OUSD Budget and Finance Committee had a meeting on 10/4; you can see the agenda here

ACOE Program and Agency Budget Committee Meeting were held on 10/6.

Community Advisory Committee for Special Education met on 10/6 at Bret Harte Middle School. Committee members and other participants heard learning’s from the September Study Session and discuss initiatives and changes currently underway for Special Education in OUSD

Breaking the Cycle in Oakland- A Woke Grandparent’s Story – Great School Voices
Connie Williams is a mother and grandmother of Oakland public school children, she also graduated from Oakland public schools.

Opinion: It Should Not Take A Natural Disaster in Oakland
The wake of the disasters that are plaguing our sister states and countries around the world, students, faculty, and staff from across Laney College.

For Youth and Families

Free Flu Vaccine Available For All Participating Oakland Elementary Schools. Shoo the Flu program will return this fall for teachers and students at elementary schools throughout Oakland.

Radio and Podcasting Class for Youth from KALW and EOYDC – Calling all East Oakland Youth 14-18! Tell a story you care about, in your own voice– take the Radio and Podcasting class from KALW and EOYDC.

California

New poll: ‘Safe and positive school environment’ more important than higher test scores A survey of California registered voters also shows strong support for school districts to devote more funds and resources to addressing the needs of the state’s.

Lawsuit: Foster child died after ingesting meth for second time. Attorneys for the family of a foster child who died after ingesting methamphetamine filed a federal lawsuit against Alameda County on Monday.

Schools face challenge bringing homeless children out of the shadows. A non-profit journalism website reporting on key education issues in California and beyond.

Shelters, cars and crowded rooms – An EdSource special report on how the housing crisis has forced more students into homelessness.

“Education for All: Serving California’s Most Vulnerable Children.” Edsource’s annual conference on 10/5 focused on looking at what schools and communities can do to ensure that all students succeed, especially in the wake of California’s landmark reforms and how current federal policies may undercut them

LA County Office admits it shouldn’t have approved Long Beach’s LCAP County officials are now demanding districts do a better job of justifying spending for low-income students and English learners under the funding formula.

Best of the Rest

Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular Activists can’t persuade their contemporaries—they’re aiming at the next generation.

Latino dropout rate hits new low as college enrollment hits record high. The high school dropout rate among U.S. Latinos has fallen to a new low while a record number of Hispanics are attending college, a Pew Research report finds.

Opportunities/Funding for Educators

10/15 – School Retool Fellowship Application: Oakland Winter 2018 Cohort Educate78’s School Design Lab and the Rogers Family Foundation, in support and collaboration with Oakland Unified School District, are excited to announce a second Oakland-based School Retool. Cohort.School Retool is open to school leaders in public schools throughout Oakland. We are seeking leaders who want to change the status quo of public education, are passionate about access to Deeper Learning for all students, are willing and ready to try out a new, immersive learning experience, and are committed to fully participating in the work of the fellowship. You can find more info here

12/16 – West Oakland School and Resource Fair Public · Hosted by Enroll Oakland Charters

Oakland families are invited to learn more about their public school options. There will be:
* School Booths (Elementary, Middle, High schools) – Visit with school principals, teachers and families
* Enrollment Booths – Explore and compare public schools using Oakland’s school finder. Get help with your online application and/or enroll online.
* Resource Booths – Learn more about support services provided by local community organizations.

How you can help

Help an Oakland student and educator whose home was destroyed by fire. Huber was an Education for Change student, and is now an Education for Change teacher in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. He and his family represent Oakland at its best, and in the early hours of Friday, September 8th, they awoke to their home on fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but you can imagine the pain, stress, frustration, and anger in seeing your family home on fire. We are asking that you donate whatever you can to help Huber and his family respond to this loss quickly so that he can resume the job he loves and support his family. Help spread the word! 

Support students with Listening Tools – A strong listening center is much needed in all elementary school classrooms. The stacks of CD’s and cassettes on a day to day for engagement, enrichment in both love for learning and academic standards. My students need a protected space with a CD player and timers to listen, learn and be heard.  Be the first to donate | $484 still needed, Ms. Semana Aspire College Academy, Oakland CA

Bring Coding and Engineering to Life with Lego Robots at Oakland Sol. This is the second phase of our great robot adventure, where students experiment with engineering concepts and coding practice, as well as learning about the design phases of a technical project. My students need these EV3 Mindstorms kits to take their skills to the next level! 2 donors | $466 still needed… Give to Mr. Davis

The Good the Bad and the Troubling in the OUSD Budget

Oakland Unified finally got some good news in its enrollment numbers.  Who knew that doing community outreach, simplifying the enrollment process, and opening a new school that families wanted would attract more students?

It’s a bit more complicated than that, but it’s still good news.  However, before we start popping champagne, we still need to address the underlying budget issues, and we also heard some very troubling testimony from OUSD staff about deliberately hidden costs and deficits.

Since the news is generally a parade of the horribles, let’s start with some good news.

OUSD had surprisingly strong enrollment

After a tough year of overly rosy projections, followed by disappointing enrollment and mid-year cuts, it’s great to see OUSD’s enrollment is up.  Here is the slide from the OUSD board meeting

Because a major driver of district revenue is student enrollment, these numbers matter.  But before we get giddy and open up the checkbook we need to look deeper into these numbers, and listen to district staff’s caution.

Behind the enrollment numbers

It’s not clear what exactly is behind this growth.  I do applaud the OUSD enrollment office for doing a much better job of outreach and being increasingly responsive to families.   Families appreciated the enrollment fairs that were run with district and charter schools, and there are many underappreciated OUSD schools, that should attract more families.

But there is more to it.

Demographically, Oakland has more young children this year than average, three charter schools were closed, including one very late in the year, and OUSD opened its first new school in years, Oakland SOL, which likely retained some children who would have left OUSD.   So, it’s hard to say, whether this enrollment growth is a trend or a blip.  And in reality the way OUSD handles its own portfolio and outreach will have some impact, but there are always outside forces.

So if we are smart, we will not get too happy and will continue to do the hard work of fixing OUSD’s budget in a sustainable way, where we aren’t so dependent on relatively small fluctuations in enrollment.

The Continuing Budget Crisis

Even with this enrollment boost the district is in a financial crisis, expenses were higher than budgeted, we are below the state mandated reserve, we will need to make another set of mid-year cuts, and another state receivership is not out of the question.  GO does a solid job of covering the budget issues here, but let me excerpt,

OUSD had $9.1 million more in expenses than it thought it would during the closing of the books. This is troubling. It also had some additional unexpected revenue come in. Bottomline, OUSD finished the 2016-17 school year with a 0.5% reserve ($2.9 million), which was lower than projected. OUSD will start this year with an adopted budget that gets it back to the state minimum 2% reserve.

All of this means that there is both no room for error in the current budget and major budget challenges in the immediate school year.  There are going to be tough, but necessary choices ahead.

This bump in revenues can’t take the urgency away from the need to fundamentally reform OUSD’s budget, which for decades has lacked transparency, clarity, and accuracy.  Which brings me to the most troubling aspect.

75 off the book positions

We will never get our finances straight if we can’t trust the books.  And the Budget and Finance committee meeting had a troubling revelation—75 non budgeted positions were hired for, and allegedly staff were told to hide the deficit from the board.  The Oakland Post covered this

One significant misstep last year was the failure of what is called “position control.”
Supt. Antwan Wilson’s administration created 75 positions, mostly in the central office, that were not accounted for in the budget and for which funds had not been allocated, said Katema Ballentine, OUSD’s financial officer of budget development. “That’s huge. I’ve never seen a budget number that large,” she said…

Ballentine told board members that budget staff realized during the last months of Supt. Wilson’s administration that the district was facing a $30 million shortfall, but she and Senior Business Officer Vernon Hal were not allowed to tell the board.

“Vernon and I were not permitted,” she said.

I wasn’t in the room, and I don’t know what happened.  And these are not fraudulent positions, they were expenditures for kids, but we can never run a district where expenses are hidden, and staff are silenced.  And if that is how business is run, we will bounce from crisis to crisis, and probably should be under state receivership.

Good enrollment numbers give Oakland Unified a chance to breathe, but not to rest.  OUSD has critical financial issues that have to be addressed now, and maybe more importantly is the crisis of culture, where the public and its representatives can be kept in the dark, where problems can fester, and can’t be effectively addressed.

So we need to not just fix the OUSD budget, but more importantly, fix the culture that created it.

The Report Oakland Needs to Read

OUSD’s predicament of being a declining enrollment district while charter schools grow is not unique, and it needn’t be so painful according to a new report out of the Center for Reinventing Public Education.   The report had some hard truths on both “sides.”  And some key lessons for each public school sector to accept if we are to really serve the public.

Better Together Ensuring Quality District Schools in Times of Charter Growth and Declining Enrollment, isn’t about Oakland, but it could be.  The authors trace 7 large districts’ experiences managing their schools and central office, under charter school growth and declining enrollment.  That is one of Oakland Unified’s struggles right now.  There are some nuggets here to learn from and I hope our decision makers are listening.

Declining enrollment is a trend in most big cities, charters or not.

The earliest stat I could find on Oakland enrollment on CDE was 1993.  Prior to any charters, the district then had 51,748 students.  You can see the chart from OFCY that shows combined charter and district enrollment.  Even when you add the number of charter and district students, enrollment is declining from historic rates, here’s the data from OFCY.  We are at roughly 48,000 students in the combined sectors now.

This declining overall enrollment is a stable trend in large cities dating back to the 70’s.

Another key point was that districts really are built to grow and not to shrink, and they struggle may struggle to maintain quality with decreases in enrollment.   These trends predate charter schools, so even in the absence of charters, districts would be facing similar challenges.

And how they respond matters, “while districts can respond to enrollment loss in sustainable ways, shortsighted ‘fixes’ can hurt students” the authors state, demonstrating the downward spiral of ill designed cuts.  They note that some districts increased class sizes, while others reduced them, during declining enrollment.  So how districts react matters.

Which brings me to a second point they made, which initially bothered me, but sunk in; “declining enrollments may not be charters’ fault, but it is their problem.”  Anyone watching recent charter applications in Oakland feels the pressure of the district’s challenges as barrier to charter approval, and trustees have said as much.  And while it sounds trite, they are all our kids, when the district falters and kids are hurt, it hurts, similarly, when charters fail, it’s bad for kids.

While the nature of charter schools is that they are independent and somewhat disorganized as a sector, they need to better come together and address the sector wide challenges.  And part of that means addressing the challenges of the district and overall student population as issues charter schools and the charter sector need to address.  Especially as charter school numbers increase, the problems of public education and the district become charter school problems.

Themes, Challenges, and Opportunities

Charter public schools are here to stay, and individual charters need to find a better and more productive way to work together as a sector and with the district.  Oakland Unified is facing a budget crisis, even with a slight bump in enrollment this year.

There are structural issues in OUSD that need to be addressed, and a structural deficit.  And depending on how OUSD addresses those challenges that could put it in a downward spiral where cuts reduce school quality which reduce enrollment, engendering more cuts, and so on and so on.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Some districts have maintained or increased quality while shrinking, again, the choices matter.

Seeing beyond a zero sum game and towards a “grand bargain”

The sectors need to come together and think harder about creating the best learning opportunities for students regardless of sector, and the charter sector has to take more responsibility for buffering the sometimes painfully disruptive aspect of education reform.  This requires that we have an active dialogue, agree to principles and think more holistically about the range of students in Oakland and health of the district and public education sector.  We need to develop a policy agenda around collaboration, advocacy, and more deliberate planning of charters to explicitly meet existing gaps or complement district programming.

The authors call for a “grand bargain” where charters take a more active role in supporting the overall public education sector, including taking on some of the District’s legacy costs.  In the case of Oakland this would mean charters helping pay down the debt to the state, for example, which some but not all do now.  And districts would agree to adjust the way they do business going forward, and also to really look at more equitable ways to share resources and the responsiveness and viability of their portfolio of schools.

Shades of Oakland

Though Oakland was not included in the report, it could have been.  The stories are the same around the challenges many cities face.  They differ around the answers, and some districts have managed relatively well through the difficult times of declining enrollment, others not so much.

We did start to embark on a “grand bargain” here—the equity pledge.   But politics and lack of will on all sides, basically killed that, or at least left it withered to die on the vine.

So where do we go from here, we have two public education sectors, vying for the same territory with roughly the same mission, who are chaotically coexisting but not collaborating.  Families deserve better, and the CRPE reports identifies a better way.  I hope we can listen, though the pull of politics is often stronger than that of reason.