Improving Education in Oakland
Did you know that in the past year the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) cut about nine million dollars off of school funding? (Romero). How much did that impact the schools and communities? In this blog, I will talk about these topics, and how budget/funding impacts improvement in education.
The budget cut is a big issue that is hindering schools from giving quality education to the students. I interviewed Jenny Wu, a highschool student at Life Academy. She said, “Specifically in my high school a lot of the time we don’t have the same amount of classes…the OUSD recently has a budget deficit because the previous superintendent ran off with money and the money they (schools) got had to be cut out to prevent the whole district from going to state takeover” (Wu). This matters because the actions of one person caused an entire community to fall short of what they need. OUSD needs a better system to ensure if incidents like this happen again, there will be minimal impact on the schools. OUSD has to change the way they are distribute resources once they get the budget cut problem under control so that there is equity in the resources each school gets and students like Wu get the resources they need. To add on, “Oakland Unified to Cut $9 Million Despite Protests From Students” by Farida Jhabvala Romero writing for KQED, talks about OUSD over budgeting. Romero reveals, “during fiscal year 2015-2016, the district budgeted $20 million for professional and consulting services, but spent a whopping $29.3 million. That same year, the district spent more than $10 million over its budgeted amount in classified supervisors and administrators, but significantly less for books and supplies” (Romero). OUSD is just digging a deeper hole for itself when it over budgets. The crazy thing is the money isn’t even going towards what the students need, such as books and supplies. Prioritizing the students is what must come first, everything else can come second because the entire reason that OUSD is there, is to bring quality education to Oakland kids.
Teachers are another matter that is often forgotten upon when compared to eye catching problems like the budget cut situation. Teachers are very much just as important as the budget cut issue as loss of teachers will be devastating for schools. I interviewed Judy Lee, a teacher at Franklin Elementary, who has worked in Oakland since 1984. She explained, “there are really dedicated teachers who are willing to take less pay as they see teaching in Oakland is that much more challenging but the same time that much more rewarding, but we need more of that, and I am not sure how to make that happen” (Lee). Teachers are the sole reason if the students are getting quality education. OUSD has to offer more support to teachers, to those who are starting out as well as old teachers. Those teachers who love their students and willing to sacrifice for them should be rewarded rather than getting lower paychecks. With the budget cut hanging over schools, the schools won’t be able to pay the amount teachers deserve, which will just lead to more and more teachers leaving because they can’t afford living expenses. We need to keep those amazing teachers as it’s through their efforts that, students grow. Additionally, in “OP-ED: Oakland’s New Teachers Need Your Support” by Hannah Lukanuski,who works under Oakland Local talks about their experience as a beginning teacher. Lukanuski recalls, “My first day of teaching fourth grade was two years ago and it was a whirlwind of energetic joy and panicked mistakes. Luckily, I was at a school that anticipated and addressed the challenges I faced as a new teacher. I received almost daily observation and feedback from my principal, was coached on classroom management, and had time during the week to collaboratively plan lessons with my grade level team. These resources both alleviated my first-year teaching anxiety and improved my classroom practices quickly”(Lukanuski). Teachers need support and feedback to improve. Especially newer teachers, many teachers don’t get the same amount of support as Lukanuski did, so if we want to see improvement in education we must improve the teachers. Teachers should be able to grow with the students and improve. But right now it is impossible to offer more support to the teachers. Why would anyone stay at a place that underpays? It’s illogical, that’s why the budget problem has to be fixed as soon as possible.
Some may argue that OUSD has done a great job at improving their test scores over the years. But do test scores really show a student’s “smartness”? According to “Intelligence Cannot be Defined by Exams” by Peter Trait, a writer for “The Telegraph” outlined that one assessment isn’t enough to measure intelligence. Trait states, “We might well ask, are our schools guilty of promoting a passive form of intelligence, asking ‘what do you know’ rather than ‘what can you do’ simply because of the limitations of assessment? We might also pause to recognise that many ‘intelligent’ people may lack the very qualities we need from our leaders, be it emotional intelligence, wisdom or even common sense”(Trait). Everyone learns differently and understands material at a different pace so why must everyone take the same test that measures only one intellect? OUSD should create many different ways to test “smartness” that doesn’t limit to visual learners. That will push towards an equitable environment for all students. To implement this into schools, there has to be funding for the project, but because of the budget deficit that seems impractical.
Overall, there are many issues that OUSD is facing right now, but if we want to see improvement, OUSD needs listen to their community about changes, work for the best of the students, as that is what’s important. If no change is implemented soon and they stay on the same path we won’t be seeing education in Oakland improve anytime soon. Funding is the biggest issue right now that’s stopping change from being implemented because nothing can happen without proper funding. That’s why it’s crucial to get the budget in order to push for equitable education in Oakland.
Lee, Judy. “Oakland Education.” 31 Dec. 2017.
I spoke to Ms.Lee about Oakland Education and how she felt about it. She spoke out on some changes that she thought would improve Oakland education. Specifically, payment for teachers, as schools are losing more and more teachers over time. Lee is a credible source because she is a teacher in Oakland who has worked at Franklin for many years.
Lukanuski, Hannah. “OP-ED: Oakland’s New Teachers Need Your Support.” Oakland Post, 8 Mar. 2017, www.oaklandpost.org/2017/03/08/op-ed-oaklands-new-teachers-need-your-support/.
This article explains a teachers first experience in a classroom. Hannah talks about how the school supported her so much by offering her feedback from constance observant. But other teachers in the community don’t have that kind of luxury. She yearns for more equity in the treatment of teachers in Oakland. This source is credible because each paper that Oakland Post writes seeks to provide awareness of issues and current events of concern in Bay Area minority communities.
Romero, Farida Jhabvala. “Oakland Unified to Cut $9 Million Despite Protests From Students.” KQED News, 14 Dec. 2017, ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/12/14/oakland-unified-to-cut-9-million-despite-protests-from-students/.
This article talks about the budget cut that OUSD schools have faced. Oakland Unified school district is cutting off funds to schools in order to correct overspending over the years. This rallied a lot of protest and resistance from parents, students and teachers. KQED is a very credible source in the Bay Area. Known for its accuracy and relevance of the news that it brings.
Tillotson, Dirk. “Dirk Tillotson, Author at Great School Voices.” Great School Voices, 6 Dec. 2017, greatschoolvoices.org/author/dirk/.
This article explains OUSD progress academically compared to other districts. Also, highlighting a bit of the budget crisis and recommending what needs to happen. Dirk is a trustworthy publisher because they have helped start or run dozens of schools, lived around the country and the world, advocated for countless families, and seen the good bad and the ugly in public education. This started with their own education, where they received strong academic skills.
Wu, Jenny. “Oakland Education.” 31 Dec. 2017.
I questioned Wu about her experience with education in Oakland. She talked about the Budget cut that many OUSD schools face. Also, how it’s a big impediment hindering students from getting the best education. Jenny is a credible source because she is a high schooler at life academy almost close to graduating. Furthermore, has lived in Oakland for over 10 years.