At tonight’s special meeting, the OUSD board will be voting to cut $21 million from next year’s budget, including 50% in inequitable “across the board” cuts to all schools regardless of the school’s ability to absorb those losses. In addition, OUSD has changed the way it allocates the concentration dollars which go to our highest need students, creating an “Equity Index” to allocate those dollars. In order to qualify for these dollars, you must meet a minimum on the index. While we believe the Equity Index was an attempt to address some problems with the former “Z score” analysis, the impact of this new Equity Index is that it excludes every single school with a majority black student population. The loss of between $25,000 and $100,000 per school on top of the across the board 50% cuts is simply devastating for those schools. The board must restore those funds to these majority African American schools and reverse the anti-black impact of this inequitable “Equity Index.”
Parents United has sent the below letter to the OUSD Board. The meeting is Wednesday, March 4th at 5:30 at La Escuelita, 1050 Second Avenue.
Dear Board Directors,
The Superintendent and her staff are presenting budget reductions to you for approval tonight which include an “across the board” 50% reduction in discretionary funding plus a new “Equity Index” for the distribution of Local Control Funding Formula (“LCFF”) concentration dollars which unfairly eliminates supports for our black students in OUSD. These cuts reflect an institutional bias against low income and African-American students in our district and must be rejected¹.
In 2016 this Board adopted Board Policy (“BP”) 5032 which states “The Governing Board seeks to understand and to interrupt patterns of institutional bias at all levels of the organization, whether conscious or unconscious, that results in predictably lower academic achievement most notably for students of color.” This Equity Policy was a recognition that we as a district have an obligation to center the needs of students of color, including and perhaps especially for our African American students who are subject to the particularly virulent anti-black racism that exists in this country. This Board has repeatedly instructed staff to apply an “equity lens” to budget reductions, recognizing that across the board budget reductions hurt some schools more than others, where more affluent, often white parents simply fund-raise or donate the difference.
Instead of applying that “equity lens” to the cuts in discretionary funding, the staff has instead chosen to apply an across the board 50% reduction in this funding for every school, regardless of the ability to make up for that loss. This hardship is compounded because OUSD over-enrolls wealthier, whiter schools, contributing to declining enrollment at primarily low-income, non-white schools. For instance, Peralta elementary last year had 319 students which, according to the Jacobs report, was 139% of its capacity. In other words, they were 40% above the building capacity. Yet Peralta’s projected enrollment increase for next year is 35 students MORE than this year, which will put it at 149% capacity and will contribute to declining enrollment at another school, which will then receive even less discretionary funding to meet student needs.
We are pleased to see that the Superintendent recognizes this problem and is proposing to cap enrollment at schools to ensure that students and funding are distributed more fairly. Nonetheless, this does not undo the harm done by across the board cuts, and you should reject them and direct staff to apply an equity lens to these cuts immediately².
Applying an “Equity Index” to cuts makes sense, but the index must be calculated in a way that does not disproportionately harm African-American/Black students in this district. OUSD receives “Concentration” dollars from the state specifically for our “unduplicated³” low-income students, english learners and foster youth and is intended to provide targeted supports to students who need them most. OUSD developed a “Z score” to distribute those concentration dollars, taking into account various environmental factors that impact learning such as neighborhood crime and access to fresh foods, but which was centered on where the school was, not where the child lived. In an effort to change that focus, OUSD has for next year introduced an “Equity Index” which has the impact not of creating equity across the entirety of our district, but just shuffles funds from one group of high need student to another. As discussed above, that is not Equity.
More importantly, however, in reclassifying how concentration dollars are allocated, OUSD is discriminating against majority black schools and disproportionately harming the black students in those schools. The Equity Index is derived by using the DUPLICATED⁴ counts of LCFF categorized students (low-income, english learners and foster youth) plus some additional factors such as chronic absence and reading scores. Under this new Equity index, not a single school with more than a 50% Black student population makes the cut for ANY funding. The design of the index, while attempting to solve one problem, inadvertently creates another one.
The harm to some black schools is catastrophic. Prescott School and McClymonds High School, both in West Oakland, each received $100,000 in concentration dollars this year and will receive $0 next year. For Prescott, coupled with the 50% cut to discretionary dollars, that means $981 fewer LCFF funds per pupil for next year, a nearly insurmountable loss. Overall, the impact of the school site cuts hits majority black schools hard: an average of $272 per student lost in overall LCFF funding (discretionary, supplemental and concentration). Compare that with the loss felt by primarily white schools – just $70 per student. This is NOT EQUITY!
It is time for our district to live up to the ideals of its own Equity Policy and interrupt the pattern of anti-black racism that OUSD has engaged in forever. This should be a major focus of work going forward, but right now the district must:
- Eliminate the 50% across the board budget cuts and use an equity formula soften the blow of those cuts to schools that can least afford it;
- Revise the Equity Index to more accurately reflect an equitable allocation based on need that does not disproportionately harm black students; and
- Restore the concentration dollars cut from schools with more than 50% black students⁵ for next year to allow for the development of a better system of allocation and to prevent disproportionate racialized impact on black students.
Parents United for Public Schools