OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The Oakland Unified School District’s Board of Education voted in favor of a multi-million dollar mid-year budget cut Wednesday night, despite protest from teachers and school advocates.
The board voted 6 to 1 to approve of the budget cuts.
The district 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, urged the district to avoid any cuts not immediately necessary to avoid a state takeover of the district’s finances.
“This is not acceptable. This is a manufactured crisis,” said teacher Tanya Kepner. “They just want an extra financial cushion. We’re saying no.”
Instead of cutting funding for teachers and students, the advocacy group Classroom Struggle urged the district to trim fat by reducing hours and cutting positions for the district’s higher-paid administrative personnel.
They also urged 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.
The protests began outside near Lake Merritt and ended inside the school board meeting, where the raucous crowd boo’ed their disapproval as Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell as she tried to explain the cuts, saying it was a matter of solvency.
Oakland Education Association President Trish Gorham said, “They do have to cut in order to make the $1.2 million reserve, that’s a legal requirement. And they probably have to add more for special ed funds and transportation because we know those go over budget. But that’s $5 or $6 million, not $9 million.”
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