Oakland Unified faces tough budget decisions for future school years with $33 million shortfall

ByRyan Curry KGO logo
Friday, December 15, 2023
OUSD faces tough budget decisions for future school years
The Oakland Unified School District faces a $33 million budget shortfall for next school year, and with that, some tough programming decisions.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Oakland Unified School District faces a $33 million budget shortfall for the next school year. A lot of that money will be covered by state and federal grants, but the district plans to adjust its budget to limit that shortfall as much as possible.

On Thursday, the school board will meet in a special session to discuss the upcoming budget issues. They say rising infrastructure costs, health insurance, and now a new union agreement with the teachers will make costs go up. Enrollment continues to decline.

"We want people to stay in Oakland and work in Oakland for the long-term," said Sam Davis, OUSD board member for District 1. "It does mean we have to balance our budget and it is a requirement for any district."

This means possibly consolidating schools and cutting funding for certain programs. Davis says keeping some schools open with low enrollment is not sustainable.

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"We had a small schools movement where we had many schools that were 350 to 400 students," he said. "But now with declining enrollment we have 11 schools in Oakland that are under 180 students each, and that is not sustainable."

One of the proposals in the meeting plans to cut site allocations. Currently it is $60 for elementary school students, $75 for middle, and $100 for high school. If passed, the new allocations would be $50 for elementary, $65 for middle, and $80 for high school students. Taking money away leaves some who work for the district worried necessary programs will get cut.

"It is like the blind leading the blind, to be honest with you," said Lawrence Williams, a para-professional with the district. "How are you going to have that type of support if you don't have the impact to help the students become better people without the money being a part of it that?"

Williams helps students who need extra counseling and support. He worries his program will lose funding if the district continues to cut costs. He understands money is tight, but he thinks important programs need to remain funded.

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"Just keep the programs that are important at the top of the list, because at the end of the day these are programs that are going to help these kids get through," he said.

Davis says consolidating schools and programs would mean the district can allocate funds to the right channels. He says it is something the board needs to consider.

"It is not just the negative impact for families when do you have to close a school. But it is the positive impact," Davis said. "When those families end up at a school that is adequately resourced and they are getting the support they need.

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