The Oakland Ed Week in Review 6/22/24-6/28/24 

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  

We’re back with our roundup of education news from around The Town, the Bay Area, state, and nation for your weekend reading. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices.  

As the school year draws to a close across the United States, students and educators alike are reflecting on a year of resilience and adaptation amidst ongoing challenges. With summer break on the horizon, families are gearing up to celebrate the Fourth of July, marking a time of unity and reflection on our nation’s history.

Here’s what’s been going on: 

Here in Oakland |  In Oakland, budget cuts loom over OUSD as leaders face financial challenges, aiming to avoid insolvency and maintain educational quality amidst projected deficits. A mobile classroom initiative brings preschool to unhoused children, supporting stability and enrollment in Head Start programs. Additionally, a pilot program incentivizes student attendance with $50 per week, significantly reducing absenteeism rates.

In the Greater Bay Area |  Across the Bay Area, San Francisco contemplates school closures amid a $420 million deficit, while Berkeley faces a federal investigation over discrimination claims. The West Contra Costa Unified School District risks a financial takeover due to budget issues, sparking community outcry and a push for financial stability.

Throughout the State of California |  Throughout California, a new lawsuit mandates increased monitoring of discrimination against students, aiming to address disparities in services. In Sacramento, advocacy for Black students prompts action amid concerns over educational outcomes. High school students statewide will soon be required to take a personal finance course by 2030-31 to combat wealth inequality.

Across the Nation |  Nationally, emergency school funding lifted student achievement post-pandemic, but disparities remain. Controversies arise as states mandate curriculum changes and display religious symbols in schools, prompting legal challenges and debates over separation of church and state. The Education Department considers updating accountability measures under IDEA to improve compliance and student outcomes.

What did we miss?  Hit us up in the comments below: 


Major cuts are coming for OUSD’s budget. But there is some good news

What’s happening: Oakland school leaders face massive spending reductions to avoid insolvency in the coming years. The board approved the 2024-2025 budget amid projected deficits starting in 2025-2026.and aims to pay off its state loan by 2026 to end financial oversight.

Why it matters: Budget cuts can lead to school closures and staff reductions, impacting educational quality.

What’s next: The board will identify areas to cut by October and vote on adjustments next February.

Notable quote: “If we decide to do nothing…the district will be bankrupt,” – Lisa Grant-Dawson, Chief Business Officer.

By Ashley McBride | The Oaklandside

How This Classroom on Wheels Is Meeting Oakland’s Unhoused Kids Where They Are

What’s happening: Oakland’s new mobile classroom brings preschool to unhoused children – visits shelters and parks, offering a classroom environment with essentials like a toilet, sink, and learning materials –  ensuring they stay enrolled in Head Start programs.

Why it matters:  Programs like this support early childhood education and stability for children facing housing insecurity and addresses high dropout rates among homeless children by meeting them where they are.

What’s next: The mobile classroom aims to serve more families on Head Start waitlists & adapt to their needs.

Notable quote: “We wanted to follow them to wherever they go and continue to provide the services that they need,” – Everardo Mendoza, Head Start program coordinator.

By Daisy Nguyen | KQED News

Oakland Unified pays students $50 a week to go to school

What’s happening: A pilot program in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is paying students $50 a week for perfect attendance.  Nearly 100 students from seven school sites are enrolled in the 10-week program run by the Equitable Design Project. To earn the money, students must attend class five days a week without being late or cutting class. Students must also meet with a program leader and complete a weekly mental health and classroom experience assessment. 

Why it matters: The program seeks to increase attendance, which affects the funding schools receive from the state. It was created in response to high absenteeism rates, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s next: The program is funded by a $200,000 grant from Education First, along with funds from the NoVo Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy. OUSD reports that absenteeism has been cut by half since the program’s inception.

Notable quote: “Some students were saying things like, you know, I don’t have money to catch the bus across town to get to school,” – Kevin “AJ” Goines, OUSD’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support.

By Staff | KTVU FOX2 News 

In other Oakland News & Happenings…

The Bay Area

San Francisco school board discusses future school closures

What’s happening: The SFUSD Board of Education is considering the criteria and timeline for deciding which schools to close next year, with the district facing an estimated budget deficit of $420 million over the next two years if spending habits remain unchanged. The board aims to use equity, excellence, and effective resource use to evaluate schools for closure.

What else to know: SFUSD has 132 schools serving over 49,500 students, down by about 4,000 students since 2017, with an additional 4,000 expected to leave in the next decade. 

What’s next: The board will decide on the criteria for evaluating schools for closure. A list of potential schools for closure will be revealed on September 18, with a final vote on December 10. The changes would take effect in the fall of 2025.

Notable quote:  “We know the district has not made the hard decisions it’s needed to make for the past decade…   “We’ve been talking with a parent group over in Oakland to learn how they responded when their district was closing schools a few years ago,” One idea is to offer some students from shuttered schools an “opportunity ticket” elsewhere… – Meredith Dodson, Executive Director of SF Parent Action.

By Allie Rasmus | KTVU FOX2 News

Federal investigators to look into anti-Palestinian, Arab and Muslim discrimination at BUSD

What’s happening: Federal investigation launched into Berkeley Unified School District over alleged discrimination claims. The complaint accuses BUSD of anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, Islamophobic incidents including slurs and censorship. Incidents cited: students called “terrorists,” hijab ripped off, censorship of sensitive topics.

Why it matters: Investigation examines if BUSD violated Title VI ensuring discrimination-free environment. Prior complaint alleged antisemitism, sparking community debates on educational equity and sensitivity.

What’s next: Office of Civil Rights to assess BUSD’s compliance with federal law. Superintendent commits to cooperation and inclusivity.

Notable quote: “All students must feel safe and supported,” – Zahra Billoo, Council on American-Islamic Relations

By Annie Sciacca | Berkeleyside

County Office of Education can take over West Contra Costa school budget

What’s happening: The WCCUSD risks a takeover by the Contra Costa County Office of Education due to budget issues. The district must pass a budget and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) by July 1.  Community members urged the board to stop staffing cuts and reject the LCAP, saying it disenfranchises low-income, English learners, and students of color.

What to know: The LCAP, part of the budget, guides fund allocation for the $484 million budget. Trustees voted no on the LCAP, citing it didn’t reflect community priorities and lacked transparency.  Failing to pass the budget and LCAP by July 1 cedes financial control to the county. The district can still act by Sunday midnight to prevent a takeover. 

Why it matters: The district faces a projected $31.8 million deficit over the next three years. FCMAT found WCCUSD overspent, and the school board failed to make necessary cuts, risking financial stability.

What’s next: If taken over, the district will operate under last year’s budget. Payroll and general operating costs will continue without interruption. The next board meeting is set for July 17.

Notable quote: “We are confident that the county will review our circumstance with a student-focused lens,” – Kim Moses, associate superintendent of business services.

By Monica Velez | Ed Source

In other Bay Area News…

The State of California 

Parents’ lawsuit forces California schools to track discrimination against students

What’s happening: California will increase efforts to prevent discrimination against students with disabilities, English learners, and Black students.

What to know: A settlement requires the state to visit schools, interview teachers, and review student records to identify discriminatory patterns. A hotline for reporting discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying has been established by the state.

Why it matters: The settlement aims to address higher suspension rates and denial of services, particularly affecting Black students, English learners, and students with disabilities.

What’s next: Hands-on monitoring and accountability measures will be implemented to prevent and address discrimination in schools.

Notable quote: “For the first time, the state will now be required to strengthen its monitoring of school districts to prevent discrimination,” -Linnea Nelson, ACLU.

By Carolyn Jones | CalMatters

Advocate holds up school board meeting, insists upon action for Sacramento’s Black students

What’s happening: A tense 15-minute standoff ensued when Terrence Gladney, chair of the Black/African American Advisory Board, refused to leave the podium until the board discussed the issues. Gladney, demanded action for Black students at a Sacramento City USD board meeting. He highlighted the district’s failure to address the high number of Black students in special ed and their poor academic outcomes, referencing a recent grand jury report. Security was called, but he ultimately walked away after a promise to agendize the topic.

What else to know: The BAAAB, formed in 2019, advises the district on reducing the racial achievement gap. Gladney’s advocacy has focused on broader community impacts rather than personal gains.

Why it matters: The district’s handling of Black students’ education, especially in special ed, has been heavily criticized, prompting calls for immediate and effective action.

What’s next: The board promised to agendize the issue at an upcoming meeting in the next school year, aiming to address the BAAAB’s concerns and recommendations.

Notable quote:  “The ongoing state of Black students in this district and in this country should be considered a state of emergency…  “I don’t want to disrespect people’s time, but I also don’t want to disrespect our students” – Terrence Gladney, chair of the Black/African American Advisory Board

By Jennah Pendleton | Sacramento Bee

Add personal finance to what every California high school graduate must learn

What’s happening: California high schools will soon require a personal finance course for graduation by 2030-31. Legislation mandates personal finance education to address financial literacy gaps and combat wealth inequality. Bill has widespread support.

What else to know: Bill allows substitution of personal finance for economics to prevent overloading students’ schedules.  

What’s next: Instruction Quality Commission to create curriculum guide by May 31, 2026. Teacher training to follow.  Teachers with credentials in social science, business, math, or home economics can teach personal finance. 

Notable quote: “This bill is impactful for combatting wealth inequality,” – Kayvon Banankhah, High School Junior

By John Fensterwald | Ed Source

LAUSD OKs $18.4-billion budget amid concerns over police, arts – Los Angeles Times

What to know:  The Los Angeles Board of Education approved an $18.4-billion budget, a decrease from last year’s $19-billion budget.  The budget avoids layoffs, maintains large reserves, and preserves essential programs despite a $600 million reduction.

What else to know: L.A. Unified benefited from nearly $500 million in federal COVID-testing reimbursement, aiding budget stability.

Why it matters: Declining enrollment affects funding. Projected enrollment for next year is 403,453, down from 412,341.  The district must adapt to fewer funds and a smaller workforce, impacting various educational and operational areas. Community members opposed staffing cuts and the LCAP, citing concerns for low-income, English learners, and students of color.

Notable quote:  “We are confident the county will review our circumstance with a student-focused lens,” – Kim Moses, associate superintendent of business services.

By Howard Blume  | Los Angeles Times

In other California News…

Across The Nation

Source:  Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research,

Studies: Pandemic aid lifted scores, but not enough to make up for lost learning

What’s happening: Two studies found nearly $200 billion in emergency school funding lifted student achievement in math and reading during and after the pandemic. Despite improvements, researchers argue ESSER funding wasn’t spent optimally, and the impact on test scores was relatively small.  Significant variation existed in how funding affected different districts, with some seeing gains and others minimal improvement.

Why it matters: ESSER funds helped, but American students likely won’t return to pre-COVID learning levels without additional funding.The cost to fully restore pre-COVID learning levels could be hundreds of billions, and states must decide their roles in future recovery efforts.

What’s next: States must consider how to sustain and build on gains as federal funds run out by September.

Notable quote: “ESSER was simply ‘not designed to learn from what districts do,’” – Dan Goldhaber,  lead author of one of the studies and the director of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research

By Kevin Mahnken | LA School Report

In related coverage: 

Randi Weingarten says teachers are ‘frustrated’ with NYC’s reading curriculum mandate

What’s happening: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten criticizes NYC’s new literacy curriculum mandate.  She expressed concerns about the rigid implementation of the new reading curriculums in elementary schools and the lack of adequate support for teachers. Her comments contrast with the supportive stance of the local teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, which backs the curriculum overhaul.

Why it matters: The mandate requires all elementary schools in NYC to implement one of three approved reading curriculums, aiming to improve reading proficiency rates. Some educators and parents argue that the mandated curriculum, especially Into Reading, is too dry and limits teachers’ ability to use their own materials.

Literacy expert Susan Neuman emphasized the need for patience and consistency in implementing the new curriculums while respecting teachers’ expertise.

What’s next: NYC officials are also planning to standardize curriculums across middle and high school math classrooms.

Notable quote: “‘Anytime someone introduces something that looks like a script — or every five minutes is regulated — it takes the teaching out of teaching,’ -Randi Weingarten

By Alex Zimmerman | Chalkbeat

Lawsuit challenges new Louisiana law requiring classrooms to display the Ten Commandments

What’s happening: Civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit to block a new Louisiana law requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public school classrooms. The law mandates that all K-12 classrooms and state-funded universities display the Ten Commandments in large, easily readable font starting next year.

What else to know: Plaintiffs argue the law is unconstitutional, violating the separation of church and state, and that it promotes religious favoritism.

What’s next: The lawsuit seeks a court declaration that the law violates the First Amendment and an order to prohibit the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

Notable quote: “This display sends a message to my children and other students that people of some religious denominations are superior to others,” – Rev. Jeff Simms, a Presbyterian pastor and plaintiff.

By Sara Cline & Kevin McGill | Associated Press | Via KRON4

In related coverage:   

Education Department considers IDEA accountability updates as more states miss mark

What’s happening:  The U.S. Department of Education considers updates to the IDEA accountability framework as more states struggle to meet requirements for special education. The number of states categorized as “needs assistance” under federal special education requirements increased to 38 in fiscal 2022, up from 35 the previous year. States categorized as “needs assistance” for consecutive years face enforcement actions, including technical assistance and setting aside funds for improvement.

Why it matters: The accountability framework, known as Results Driven Accountability (RDA), aims to measure compliance and student progress under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

What’s next: The Education Department plans updates for IDEA Part B determinations to incorporate equity considerations and improve student outcomes.

Notable quotes: “States could show a tremendous amount of improvement and still not move the needle on their determination given the current RDA matrix.” – Candace Cortiella, Director and founder of The Advocacy Institute

By Kara Arundel | K12 Dive

In other National News…

What do you think?

More Comments