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February 9, 2015

Trimming Central Office and Sending More Money to Schools 

Dear Oakland Community:
 
Later this month, I will be giving an update on our budget. Since it relates to everything we do, including several hot issues this week, I want to share some highlights about how we continue trimming central office, directing every available dollar towards the children in our classrooms and the people who directly support them, and yet still are going to face some tough choices in the face of limited dollars and extensive needs.
 
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read, consider, and share this budget news with your family, friends, and colleagues. We are still early in the process – we must adopt a budget before the July 1 beginning of the fiscal year. Over the coming weeks and months we will work together to hone in on our priorities, make our cases for key investments, and back up our commitments with sustainable dollars. We all share in this. It is OUR budget.
 
Here are the key highlights:
 
  • Trimming Central Office: We are authorized by Board policy to spend up to 12% of our budget on central office. I have pushed us to cut to 10% already, and changes we are implementing this year will bring it down to 8%. We are trimming where we can because we have to prioritize where our dollars are most needed – in our classrooms and with the people directly serving our children. For example, we eliminated 12 central office positions and made other, non-personnel related cuts--freeing $2.3 million--and made $2.4 million in new allocations that resulted in an additional $4.7 million investment in our schools.
 
  • Budgeting for the Classroom: 88% of our available dollars are going to people and supports in the classroom, and we are directing every new dollar we can to our teachers and classrooms to better serve our children. For example, of the $15.3 million originally projected increase in state funding, 90% has been committed to teacher salary increases, additional teacher benefit costs, increased State Teacher Retirement system contributions, and class size reductions requested by our teachers. (The other 10% is going to a state mandated increase in spending on building and grounds.) And even though the state has allocated $8.5 million more in its latest projections, that barely covers a third of the preliminary list of $25.8 million in unfunded needs (see slide 31 of this presentation) – everything from expanded teacher training to special education needs and investments in our most struggling schools.
 
  • Tough Choices with Children First: We are going to have to make tough choices in the face of limited resources, and must always make them with our children as first priority. We can talk all we want about priorities and aspirations, but if we don’t back our claims up with numbers and evidence, and make sure they pencil out over the long term, we are being unrealistic and fiscally irresponsible.
 
Again, these are just some highlights from the presentation I’ll be giving later this month. In case you can’t make it, I’m happy to come speak to you and your organizations about the budget. Also, we will be putting out a video presentation as we do our best to make sure everyone understands this critical information. In the meantime, here is a link on our website with some basic information.
 

Respectfully,
 


Antwan Wilson
Superintendent
 

 
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