Wednesday, June 10, 2009

OUSD Faces Severe Budget Cuts

By Sam Levin
Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 1:22 PM

Officials at the Oakland Unified School District today are discussing the most recent round of budget cuts thrown at them by the state, and, according to spokesperson Troy Flint, every sector of the district - from central office operation to in-class programs and services - is going to face significant losses.

The total projected budget loss is now $49 million, a figure which includes cuts from the 2008-09 school year and projected cuts for the upcoming year.

In the school board meeting today, Vernon Hal, chief financial officer for the OUSD, will present a proposal to manage the severe cuts, and the decisions will be voted upon and finalized at the next meeting on June 24.

His proposal includes $7.9 million in cuts to fund school sites - meaning a 4.7 percent loss in the pot of money handed out to each school for their own specifically decided uses.

Hal is proposing that the adult education services, which fall under the K-12 district sector, face a whopping 20 percent cut in budget, which would result in the loss of arts and extracurricular programs, along with the reduction in career planning services. On top of that, adult education services may lose $1 million - mostly apportioned for maintenance and operational costs - that would be transferred to the district's general fund.

The list goes on. About $1.2 million dollars may be saved by the shutdown of three schools, which Flint said already were facing non-financially related issues as well: Business Entrepreneurial School of Technology High School, Robeson School of Visual and Performing Arts, and Tilden Elementary School.

Flint said another part of the proposal is a reduction in school security staff. However, he did not have a figure for how much this cut would save, and he added that the board is not likely to vote in favor of it.

The final part of the proposal involves a $2.1 million reduction in centrally funded school services - which includes counseling and special education programs - and a $6.1 million cut in the central office, which means losses in the downtown operations, such as human resources, clerk staff, and more.

According to Flint, the most distressing part is that the budget cuts keep on coming at a rapid, unpredictable rate, placing a huge strain on the district's ability to plan long-term. "There is this consensus - in OUSD and throughout the state - that this is the worst budget cut that education has faced in everyone's memory," he said. "It is extremely stressful, not just because of the size, but because of the continuous nature of the cuts. No one has any long-term visibility for the future."

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