#ChopFromTheTop: Oakland parents urge $15M cuts be made at top, not from schools

Oakland Technical High School. Photo: OaklandTech.com

A parents group in Oakland has been compiling numbers and urging others to push back on the school board, whose members passed a resolution this week to cut $15.-million from its budget – a third of which could be directly slashed from its roughly 80 schools.

“We can still fight them,” wrote Parents United for Public Schools, a parent-led organization focused on building a strong parent voice for OUSD families. The group hopes parents will email the board to tell them they are against making any cuts to school sites, and keep reporting the proposed cuts and their impacts to present to the board at its meeting Nov. 27 when a final vote is scheduled to take place.

At its board meeting earlier this month, the board passed a resolution to make these cuts, including $5.6 million directly from the school sites to become “fiscally solvent.” That’s after years of overspending on consulting services and administrators, while spending millions less than the budgeted amount on books and supplies, the East Bay Times first reported.  The overspending was documented from 2013 and continued through the tenure of former Supt. Antwan Wilson, who quit mid-year in 2016 to take a job in Washington, D.C. Some parents, like Meg Ruth King, wrote on a parents Facebook page that Wilson should "pay some of this back out of his own pocket." 

That window has given parents time to jump into action, compiling numbers and urging frustrated taxpayers to tell the board to “#ChopFromtheTop,” instead of taking money from the children.

A school board member, James Harris, told KTVU last week that he expects to see up to 70 percent of the cuts come from the central office and up to 40 percent from the school sites.

As it stands now, Oakland Tech, Oakland High and Skyline high schools will need to cut about $400,000 from their budgets, and Madison Park Academy, Montera, Edna Brewer middle schools will need to slash more than $100,000, according to statistics compiled by Mike Hutchinson, who used data Oakland’s Public Education Network.

 “We understand that mistakes were made, and we’re very committed to making the changes that need to be made,” school board Director Jody London told the newspaper.

Teachers last week protested the proposed cuts, and like parents, said the money should not come from the classrooms.