Tonight will be another OUSD meeting addressing the budget crisis, looking backward and doing a post mortem on the causes and looking to the present year and the needed cuts. These are critical times for the district and OUSD seems to be improving their transparency with regular blogs and updates, and also making some of the hard cuts.
They are hard cuts, 80% of the District’s budget is personnel, so cuts will hurt schools, staff, and students. The good news is that we seem to be facing our current crisis and reacting, the bad news is, it is only going to get worse.
California’s Pension Problem
It’s a long and boring story, with a stinging punchline. The State has continually underfunded the pension system for school staff and now the current schools are being handed a bill for the past deficits. The pension costs, by the formula, will balloon in the next few years, tripling over a 10 year period.
From the Board presentation
So you can see the basic costs of employees are rapidly increasing, at the same time, the new school funding formula, the LCFF, is basically topped out. Barring some legislative change, state revenues to schools will be flat.
Meanwhile costs of living in Oakland are escalating quickly and salaries already struggle to compete with outlying areas. So costs are going up while revenues will be flat. That’s another economic crisis in the making.
There is no easy out here, Educate 78 proposed a range of solutions in a recent blog, and I have also thought some about ways to at staunch the short term issues, so the district can figure out its long term ones.
But addressing those long terms issues—we spend more money than we receive in revenue and have weak systems to control and predict spending—will need real courage and new ideas.
And quite honestly, consensus and implementation of new and better ideas have been lacking in Oakland for quite a while now.