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Parents and Teachers Angry Over OUSD Budget Cuts

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Alix Black, a 5th grade teacher at Franklin Elementary, and Elisabeth Donley, an art teacher at Hillcrest School, hold up signs and chant ‘No cuts for kids, fund out schools’ during a demonstration in front of the Grand Lake Theatre. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, Oakland North.
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is preparing to approve $15 million in budget cuts this school year at a special school board meeting on Monday, hoping that these immediate reductions will give the district the financial cushion it needs to stay afloat.
In response, angry teachers and families are planning to attend the board meeting in an attempt to halt or reduce the cuts that directly impact classrooms and students.
“$15.1 million in cuts at this time is not necessary,” said Oakland Education Association President Trish Gorham in an email blast last
Sunday evening.
“Creating a ‘cushion’ to allow OUSD the room to make more accounting errors while schools are cutting to the bone is unacceptable,” she said. “Cuts to school sites must be eliminated and layoffs of the lowest paid workers in the district reversed.”
According to the district, the “fiscal solvency” objectives for this school year include $1.3 million to fully fund the state-required reserve for economic uncertainties, as well as $5.5 million to fully fund the additional 1 percent reserve that was required by the Board of Education.
Another $8 million would restore the district’s workers’ compensation fund, which was used last year to keep the district from going bankrupt.
The district has been struggling to get a handle on a growing deficit that came to light in December and January after former Supt. Antwan Wilson announced he was resigning to take over the leadership of Washington, D.C. schools.
To keep from going into the red this year, OUSD is planning to cut $15.1 million this year after already reducing spending by $32.5 million since January of last school year for a total of $47.6 million.
The district administration has proposed that this year’s cuts would be divided between the schools and the central office, roughly 2.2 percent of school site expenditures and 11.6 percent of the central office budget.
Most employees who will lose their jobs this year are classified, non-credentialed staff. Educators with administrative or teaching credentials under state law can only be laid off at the end of June and would not have a budget impact until next school year.
In October, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell met with principals. She asked them to participate in a survey about which of the district’s 29 departments they thought should be reduced or cut, rating the central office services they thought were lest critical to the ongoing work of the schools.
The department with the lowest rating was Organizational Effectiveness and Culture, which had been formed under Supt. Wilson and led by the wife of Allen Smith, Wilson’s Chief of Schools.
At one point, the office had five administrators. At present, there are two.
Principals also called for cuts in Communications. “Frequent comments related to the recent non-essential growth of this department,” according to an internal document explaining the results of the survey.
The department has a deputy chief, director, manager of the district television station and manager of local control of accountability.  A director of community engagement headed a team of four staff, now reduced to two.
The principals in the survey rated financial services as important but wanted cuts in Business Operations. “Comments related to cuts seemed largely connected to principals’ anger at historical financial mismanagement,” the internal document said.
Some employees blame financial staff for not catching the over-expenditures and failing to do anything to halt them.
Another department that faced criticism was the Office of Postsecondary Readiness. “Principals commented that there was significant overhead in this department,” the document said.
The administration of the Oakland Athletic League (OAL) came under this department. At one point, the OAL has one staffer and one clerk. Under the Wilson administration, it grew to three managers, as well as a part-time support staff.
The Oakland Post received a complaint has received that administration was top heavy in Oakland Adult and Career Education, the remnant of adult education programs that had been eliminated by previous Supt. Tony Smith.
Adult Ed now has 23 teachers – 12 fulltime and 11 hourlies – who are supervised by three administrators, two directors and one assistant principal.
Among the district departments that were rated as most crucial to the functioning of the schools were Special Educations, Buildings and Grounds, Custodial Services, Human Resources, Purchasing, Tech Services and Cafeteria and Nutrition.

Barbara Lee

In a Letter to Voters, Rep. Barbara Lee Reflects on Pres. Biden’s First 100 Days

I was particularly struck seeing the Bay Area represented on the dais by Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi. That was the first time in history two women have held that position. It was reflective of the price women have paid to get to this point.

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Dear Friend,

     Last week marked the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency. On (April 28), President Biden presented his vision for an American future that builds back better after some of our most challenging years. 

     I sat in the chamber and listened to President Biden reflect on his first 100 days, confidently reporting that we have a stronger economy, more resilient pandemic response, and a unified mission of building back better and bolder.

     I was particularly struck seeing the Bay Area represented on the dais by Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi. That was the first time in history two women have held that position. It was reflective of the price women have paid to get to this point. While this was a historic moment, as Vice President Harris pointed out, it is past time that it becomes “normal.”

      During his speech, President Biden discussed his recently unveiled American Families Plan (AFP). The AFP is a bold step in advancing racial equity and closing the gap in education, childcare, wealth inequality, and more. By extending provisions under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and through programs of its own, the AFP would lift more than 10 million people out of poverty.

      I am excited to support this plan and similar efforts to improve equity in our school and childcare systems, and to combat inequality in the East Bay and across the country.

     The AFP offers an extended tax cut for families with children and American workers. This includes the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This will work to mitigate the growing wealth inequality that we see in America and invest in low- and middle-income families who help our economy thrive.

     Additional provisions of the AFP include:

  • Making child care affordable by ensuring that families will pay no more than 7% of their income on high-quality child care
  • Creating a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program through worker payments of up to $4,000 a month
  • Expanding school meal programs and summer EBT funds
  • Extending ACA premium tax credits that were expanded under the American Rescue Plan
  • Providing up to $1,400 in additional assistance to low-income students by increasing the Pell Grant award
  • Addressing teacher shortages and improving teacher preparation, including programs that strengthen pipelines for teachers of color

     (Last) week, we heard about some of the progress we have made in the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration, but we cannot let our foot off the gas. Among many challenges ahead, we need we need to address disparities in our public health system, do more to help families that are struggling through this economic crisis, dismantle structural racism, implement police reform and immigration reform and address the climate crisis. 

     We still have much work to do, but I am committed to continue fighting for you.

     As always, my office is here for you. If you need help with a federal issue, please call my Oakland office at (510) 764-0370. You can also connect with me via email, Facebook Twitter , and Instagram .

Please continue to stay healthy and safe.

Best,

Barbara Lee

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Bay Area

Most Californians Worry Schools Won’t Reopen Fully Next Fall, Poll Says

The majority say they approve of how Newsom handled schools this year.

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More than 4 in 5 California adults, including public school parents, believe that the pandemic has caused children, especially low-income children and English learners, to fall behind academically.

  Six in 10 Californians are concerned that schools will not be open for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released on April 28.

  The annual survey of Californians’ perspectives on education also found that a majority approved of the way Gov. Gavin Newsom has handled K-12 public schools, although opinions were split along partisan lines, with 22% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats supporting him on the issue.

  And perhaps in an indication of the erosion of support for public schools, 42% of parents say they would send their youngest child to a private school if cost and location were not at issue. This compares with 31% who would choose a traditional public school, 14% a charter school, and 13% a religious school. The preference for a private school increased from 35% last year and 31% two years ago.

  The survey of 1,602 adults over 18 was taken from April 1-14 and was offered in English or a choice of Spanish and three other languages. The margin of error was 3.4%, plus or minus, overall, and 7.4%, plus or minus, for the 295 respondents who are public school parents.

  Facing a recall election, Newsom can take solace in the poll’s finding that a majority of Californians (57% of adults, 64% of public-school parents) approve of how he has handled K-12 education.

  “Majorities of Californians approve of the way that Governor Newsom is handling the state’s K-12 public schools and school reopening, while they remain deeply divided along party lines,” said Mark Baldassare, president, and CEO of PPIC.

  However, a year ago, when the last survey was taken weeks after schools closed quickly in response to the first throes of the pandemic, his approval marks were higher, with 73% of adults and 78% of public school parents expressing approval.

  The poll, which focused on education, also found:

  Of those who said children were falling behind academically during the pandemic, 60% said that was happening by a lot and 22% by a little. The views were similar among ethnic and racial groups. Eight in 10 adults said they were concerned that low-income children were falling farther behind other children. More Blacks and Latinos were very concerned about this than whites;

  Amid continuing debates and lawsuits claiming that schools aren’t opening quickly enough, slightly more adults overall than public school parents said that schools should at least be partially open now (53% vs. 48%), while 28% of all adults and 27% of public school parents said that schools should be fully open now;

  Looking ahead to the fall, 61% of all adults said they were concerned that K-12 schools would not be open for full-time in-person instruction (24% very concerned, 37% somewhat concerned), and two-thirds of public school parents said they were concerned (25% very concerned, 41% somewhat concerned).

  When it comes to their own schools, two-thirds of adults said they approved of how their school district handled closures during the pandemic. Support was highest in the Los Angeles area (74%) and the Inland Empire (68%) and lowest in Orange County and San Diego (54%). Approval among public school parents was 72%.

  The clear majority of all adults said that teachers’ salaries in their communities are too low. About 1 in 3 said salaries are just about right while 7% said they are too high, and 3% said they didn’t know. Among racial and ethnic groups, 76% of Blacks said pay is too low, compared with 59% of whites, 61% of Asian Americans, and 62% of Latinos.

  Last month, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that California school districts could substitute local assessments for the state standardized test, the Smarter Balanced assessment, under some conditions. Many districts are expected to exercise that option.

  Asked whether they favor conducting year-end state testing this spring to measure the pandemic’s impact on student learning, 75% of all adults (and a similar proportion of public school parents) said they were in favor of continuing testing, with 23% opposed. Latinos were the most in favor (83%) and Blacks the least supportive (68%) with 70% of Asian Americans and whites in favor of continuing year-end testing.

  As for the perennial issue of school funding, 49% of all adults, 53% of likely voters, and 51% of public school parents said that the current level of state funding for their local public schools is not adequate — about the same level as a year ago.

  When it comes to school construction and renovation, 59% of all adults, 55% of likely voters, and 74% of public school parents said they would vote yes on a state bond measure to pay for school construction projects. Legislative leaders plan to place a bond on the state ballot in 2022.

 

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Art

Student Work – Nayzeth Vargas

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

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This piece was created by Nayzeth Vargas, a senior at Oakland Technical High School. The Zentangle Method is a therapeutic technique which uses combinations of contrasting patterns and values to create an image. Students were introduced to the Zentangle Method to offset the mental stress they were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation.  

There is freedom with the Zentangle; there is no expected visual outcome and students are less prone to creative blocks and self-criticism. 

Nayzeth is enrolled in the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project, an integrated arts program that supports youth in developing thoughtful, educated voices for their communities. Though art, youth practice mindfulness and boundless creativity. Enrollment for the West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project is open to youth ages 13-18 through AHC, for more information visit ahc-oakland.org/legacy.

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