Oakland school board approves $9M in budget cuts despite community protests

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OAKLAND (KTVU/BCN)--In a 6 to 1 vote Wednesday, night Oakland Unified School District's Board of Education approved $9 million in budget cuts despite vocal protests of community members. 

The resolution calls for school sites to cut $3.8 million with the remaining $5.2 million in cuts to be taken from the central office. No teachers will be laid off, though 32 administrative positions were cut.

Teachers parents and students voiced frustration tonight against the school board's consideration of a multi-million dollar mid-year budget cut. 

Hundreds of teachers and advocates shouted down the Oakland school board in opposition to the district. 

Oakland Unified had initially approved a $15 million budget cut, but recently revised that to $9 million. District spokesman John Sasaki said that reflects a commitment to the African American Male Achievement Program and the Newcomer Program, both of which garnered broad support during public input from the community.

"The community told us what was important to them," Sasaki said. "We heard them, so we changed the targets."

"African American Male Achievement specifically is a program we had envisioned cutting more, now we're cutting less," Sasaki added.

The Newcomer Program, which helps students who are new to the district and may not have much support from family or other adults, is also a part of that revision.

"Some of them are unaccompanied minors, so we have programs specifically to help them get an education and learn English, but also to connect them with services here in the community that can help them with social workers and housing," Sasaki said.

The Oakland Education Association, the union for OUSD teachers and other district staff, is urging the district to avoid any cuts not immediately necessary to avoid a state takeover of the district's finances.

Instead of cutting funding for teachers and students, the advocacy group Classroom Struggle is urging the district to trim fat by reducing hours and cutting positions for the district's higher-paid administrative personnel.

Teachers say they are left having to purchase their own classroom supplies due to the cuts. 

They're also urging that further cuts be postponed until labor unions and community groups can make a full analysis of the district's budget and create some alternative proposals.

Students as young as 2nd graders lamented the proposed cuts during public comment at the meeting. 

Both groups have scheduled a rally at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, on Lake Merritt Boulevard across from the Kaiser Convention Center, at 4:45 p.m. before marching to the school board meeting at nearby La Escuelita Elementary School at 314 E. 10th St., Oakland.