Oakland public schools discussing $21M in budget cuts

When it comes to kids and schools, budget cuts aren’t a popular discussion, but it’s become a necessary one Wednesday night for Oakland Unified School District. 

“We’re struggling with what’s going to have to be some pretty significant cuts and reductions and program changes across the district because we’re going to have to reduce by about $21 million going into next school year,” said John Sasaki, spokesperson for OUSD.

The district said it has an operating budget of $520 million a year. 

Considering the district spends 85% of its budget on personnel, layoffs are not out of the question.

“About $6 million is going to be coming from schools and right now as it stands, we’re going to be talking about reducing discretionary funds at schools. We’re also going to be talking about possibility reducing the number of assistant principals at other schools,” Sasaki told KTVU Wednesday afternoon. 

Sasaki said the cuts are the harsh reality amid an OUSD that beginning to stabilize following a few turbulent years, which led the school board and superintendent to announce the closure or merger of several school facilities in the district. 

“A year or two ago, we were at a point where we were trying to fight off going into receivership. Now we’re back in a place where we’ve elected to give raises to teachers, or give raises to our other union members,” said Sasaki. 

In addition to handing over raises to teachers, the district said the cuts are needed in order to invest in new technology of schools and funding for a central kitchen that will be able to feed tens of thousands of OUSD children district-wide.  

OUSD said it is facing increased payout in teacher pension, which it says will rise by $3 million next year. And while state funding has increased, it’s only done so by, “a little.”

“We’re going to make sure we’re on the right track for the future so that we are sustainable and successful in the future.”

The district has already figured that it may have to eliminate some assistant principal positions. During their meeting on Wednesday, the school board will identify other areas that will fall under the planned budget cut.