Phew. That’s it on the specifics of this important FCMAT report: the good, the bad and the mixed up. To summarize: budget cuts alone will NOT keep us from ending up back here again. To restore fiscal vitality, OUSD must make significant changes to its fiscal management, governance practices, managerial practices, and culture.
So Now What
For those of you who are wondering: “What can I do?” here are a few ideas:
Keep paying attention
. Our public school system needs taxpayers and voters to get informed, stay engaged and become active. Don’t blindly concur with simple slogans. The situation is complex and the solutions require real tradeoffs and more critical thinking than a catchy chant can capture. Read more
, visit OUSD’s fiscal transparency website
, and track OUSD Board discussions and decisions
Contribute to the Oakland Public Education Fund’s A-Z Fund.
Some schools have PTAs that can raise enough money to make up for the cuts; others don’t. This Fund will steer donations towards schools that are serving students with the greatest needs.
Volunteer your time. Many schools still need tutors and classroom assistants.
Mid-year budget cuts also mean fewer enrichment programs and fewer field trips. Make up for that gap by finding ways to share your passion – whether its watercolor painting or Afro-Cuban drumming or culinary science – with students. And if you have professional experience working in finance, personnel, or technology, your expertise would be valuable to OUSD’s Board and leaders. (Does OUSD need a Finance Advisory Council?)
A few final thoughts:
We need to get back to focusing on improving educational outcomes for student in our classrooms.
Righting the ship financially is important, but it is the means not the end. Too many Oakland schools are not adequately educating our children, and numerous improvements can still be made on a shoestring budget.
Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell is a leader we all need to support.
She inherited this mess, and is taking on the challenge with courage, poise, intelligence, and care – exactly what we would expect from an alumna of Oakland public education.
Oaklanders are tough fighters, creative entrepreneurs, and compassionate citizens.
We can use these assets to be part of the solution – and we will all need to work together to support our students through this adversity.