OUSD will approve its budget tonight after a tumultuous year. The good news is that they really did cut into the mounting deficit, and cut significantly from central office, mostly by reducing administrative positions. The bad news is that unless something changes, we may get a year off from fiscal crisis, but its coming. You can see the budget presentation here
I am sure GO Public Schools will do a solid job of peeling back the budget, so I will leave that to them. I don’t want you to look at 2017-2018 OUSD, but some of the trends, that portend very dark times. You can find these buried pretty deep in the deck, but the basic story they tell is that, first, state funding under the current formula- the LCFF– is about at its peak, so while schools have seen significant jumps in funding the last few year, that is over. So revenues will basically be flat.
If we are lucky, that does not count possible federal reductions or the eventual economic downturn.
At the same time, costs are going to continue to balloon, especially in a place like Oakland where the cost of living already makes it challenging for teachers and we historically overspend budgets on key areas like special education.
And schools in Oakland are already underfunded. Even with the recent jumps in state money, the amount of funding is not adequate to really give our students what they need, and the way it is distributed is totally inequitable, with the highest needs children getting nowhere near what they need.
Plus we have that pesky state loan we are repaying at $6 million a year, from the last bankruptcy, where almost none of our current kids were even in school.
There is a lot working against future solvency.
So on to the next slide you need to see
What we are doing is unsustainable. We are barely sustaining in the best of economic times, what happens in the worst?
And neither of these slides accounts for the likely increasing pension costs paid by current teachers and districts to cover the deficits for retirees from an overly optimistic set of projections.
We have two ways out of this mess.
First we need to more adequately fund schools, which means reforming Prop. 13 and thinking about a more equitable funding formula and, second, we need to rethink how we are doing things. Prop 13 reform is not a given and in the event that we can’t get more resources. There has to be a way to structurally cut more costs.
So yeah I am glad we have kind of dug ourselves out of today’s hole but I see a chasm ahead, and right now we don’t have shovel big enough to handle it.