Last week, after we launched our #OUSDBudget series, we received a lot of positive feedback from people out there trying to understand what’s going on. Not all were happy, though. This is painful for everyone – ourselves included as Oaklanders and public school parents – and our intention is to shed light on the topic, not to blame. We appreciate the hard job of District leaders and staff managing a large and complex organization faced with huge need.

We also want to recognize the outpouring of anger at the last Board meeting, reflecting the sentiments of many Oaklanders who feel wronged by the public education system. At the heart of all of this are real people working hard in the District and real students and families suffering the consequences when things don’t work well.

In order for us to have a more transparent and more productive public debate about the issue, we need to have the same information, so this installment covers a very basic question: How much money does OUSD spend each year?

Some quick stats:

  • Total: OUSD spent $705 million dollars last year. Of that, spending from the General Fund (which is the fund affected by the budget cuts) was about half a billion dollars.
  • On a per pupil basis: General Fund expenditures in 2016-2017 were $14,534 per pupil.
  • Historical comparison: OUSD’s General Fund revenues have increased 28% from 2013 to 2016.
  • Compared to other districts in the area: Overall, OUSD received 44% more funding than Fremont Unified, which has about the same enrollment (though a different student population). OUSD’s per pupil funding is among the highest of school districts in Alameda County.
  • Compared to other districts in the country: Oakland, along with the rest of California, ranks in the bottom fifth of per pupil spending, despite being richer than all but a handful of countries in the world.

In more detail: (Note: although the budget shortfall relates to this school year, we relied heavily on prior year reported financials to gather this background information, since they have been audited.)

Half a billion dollars: The “General Fund,” which is the main operating fund for the district, accounted for about three-quarters of the district’s expenditures in 2015-2016. The district spent $334 million in unrestricted funding, and $125 million from restricted funds. The Unrestricted fund within the General Fund is the part that has been the focus of the budget cuts. It’s the pool of funds that is the most flexible and it’s the basis of the state-required 2% reserve. It comprises less than half of the district’s spending, but is the pool that most schools’ day-to-day spending comes from. Restricted funds include money designated for specific programs (like Linked Learning), private grants (e.g. for school-based health centers), as well as federal Title I money and the LCFF “supplemental and concentration grants” which are intended to provide extra resources for high need students (e.g. low-income, English learner, foster youth).

$14,534 per pupil: In 2015-2016, the district had 35,348 in average daily attendance (ADA). Divide the total general fund expenditures of $515 million into that ADA and you get $14,534 per ADA. The state of CA is one of the few that funds on an ADA basis rather than enrollment, even though we obviously need to incur the expense for materials and staff for enrolled students, whether or not they happen to be sick on any given day (not to mention the cost of activities to combat chronic absenteeism, which costs the District millions per year in lost revenues).

28% increase over 3 years:  OUSD’s General Fund revenues have increased significantly over the past several years, thanks to the state’s new equity-oriented funding formula and voters approving Proposition 30 in 2012 and Proposition 55 in 2016. Three years ago (at the low point of post-recession General Fund revenues), OUSD received $401 million. The increase to over $500 million was the result of a significant increase in per pupil revenue from the state (from $11,623 to $14,426). Although OUSD’s ADA was 943 students lower, overall the district’s funding was up 28%.

More than other area districts, and many public agencies and organizations: Fremont Unified, which had about same enrollment as OUSD (33,400 ADA), had a third less General Fund expenditures in 2015-2016: only $334 million (out of $488 million total across all Funds). OUSD receives much more funding than Fremont largely because the latter’s student population is less than 30% English Language Learner and/or qualifies for Free and Reduced Price Lunches. On a per pupil basis, OUSD also received about one-fifth more money than the average district in Alameda County. For more context, OUSD’s total 2016 expenditures were a little over half that of the city of Oakland, almost double of AC Transit’s, 27 times bigger than the biggest Oakland charter organization, and almost 40 times bigger than the Oakland Museum.

Less than most districts in the country: EdSource recently broke down California’s per pupil funding. Although California’s “ranking” changes depending on the methodology, it is inevitably below the national average. If Oakland were really Brooklyn and got NY state level funding, OUSD’s budget would be over $828 million, not $500 million.

And not nearly as much as our students deserve:  What does it cost to provide a great education? Basic daycare is at least $12,000/year, tuition for private K-12 schools might be $25,000/year, and “elite” private schools can cost almost twice that. Yet our public schools, with much greater challenges to address, get significantly less per pupil. Oakland has roughly 15,000 children in private schools. If we assume $25,000 in tuition each year, that means Oakland parents are shelling out $375 million to fund private K-12 education – the equivalent of an entire unofficial school district. For a much smaller amount of funding, we could greatly improve our public school system and achieve better community integration.

Putting the budget cuts in context

With that backdrop of information about the total budget, we can begin to appreciate what it means for OUSD to cut $10 million: almost 3% of its $334 million unrestricted budget or 2% of its total General Fund…about the same amount that the district is required to have in its reserve.

Next week, we’ll delve into the question of how much money gets to our classrooms.

Until then, if you really want to go deep, here is all of the source data we pulled from, all publicly available, as well as links we pulled from.

  1. EdSource article on California’s per pupil funding: https://edsource.org/2017/how-does-california-rank-in-per-pupil-spending-it-all-depends/577405
  2. Blog on California’s funding inadequacy and how to fix it: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/californias-school-funding-crisis-two-ways-fix-dirk-tillotson
  3. OUSD:
    1. Budget page: http://www.ousd.org/Page/15885
    2. Historical audit reports: http://www.ousd.org/Page/12356
    3. Fast Facts: http://www.ousddata.org/announcements/new-fast-facts-2016-17-now-available
  4. Other Alameda County school districts: http://www.ed-data.org/
  5. City of Oakland budget about link: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/cityadministrator/documents/agenda/oak062974.pdf
  6. Alameda County Office of Education budget: http://archive.acoe.org/Business/ACOE-Budget-FY2016-17.pdf
  7. Oakland Museum of California annual report: https://issuu.com/oakland_museum/docs/omca-annual-report-fy14
  8. AC Transit budget: http://www.actransit.org/about-us/facts-and-figures/budget/
  9. Education for Change annual report: http://efcps.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/EFC-Revised-Audit-Report-2015.pdf
  10. Politifact analysis of California’s ranking as the 6th largest economy in the world: http://schoolspending.apps.cironline.org/county/alameda/district/oakland-unified/

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