FREE 2 LEARN CAMPAIGN
Oakland spends $6M a year on debt payments—money that could be used to stabilize the district and put needed fiscal infrastructure in place. The Free to Learn Committee is an ad hoc, grass roots, broad-based parent-led coalition working in partnership with community-based organizations to ask our legislators to stand with Oakland. We ask that the state allow Oakland to invest these funds in specific ways to improve fiscal accountability—and accountability to students, parents, and community.
Our plan will return $6 million per year
to OUSD over the next four years.
What’s our ask?
The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team report pointed to key vulnerabilities in OUSD’s fiscal health and accountability. Our new superintendent and staff have been working hard on addressing the issues raised—but getting to solvency is forcing deep cuts that are only hurting the district more. Instead our current loan payments of $6 million a year could be used to support long-term fiscal stability. We are setting up meetings with key legislators to discuss this strategy — but they need to know there is broad community support. Our hope is that parents, community groups, district staff and legislative partners can use a small amount of the state’s current surplus to erase OUSD's debt.
How can you help?
Assembly member Rob Bonta: https://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD18; 916-319-2018
Assembly member Tony Thurmond: firstname.lastname@example.org; (510) 286-1400
Senator Nancy Skinner: http://sd09.senate.ca.gov/contact; (510) 286-1333
Tell them you want to stand with Oakland to ask that crushing debt payments be directed instead to key investments in fiscal accountability. The suggested e-mail text is below:
Dear [Their Name],
During a time of California's budget surplus, we respectfully ask you to stand with Oakland's kids to remove barriers to the fiscal vitality required for all students to succeed in school! We need support from the state through debt cancellation to fully implement the OUSD's Financial Stability Plan and Budget, which will be the foundation for a strong, transparent fiscal infrastructure.
I am writing to you as a member of the OUSD community who has seen first-hand the impact the crippling state debt and massive school cuts have had on my child and all children in Oakland. Schools across the district report running out of paper and losing literacy coaches and other essential staff. We need to be able to protect our kids from these draconian cuts.
Over the past year thousands of families have organized to demand financial accountability in the district and we've made incredible progress towards that end. We recognize that past OUSD leaders failed to ensure OUSD’s financial health with disastrous consequences - but we've turned over a new leaf, winning a new home-grown Superintendent and School Board President with the demonstrated fiscal leadership needed to get us solvent once and for all.
Our new leaders are committed to putting a solid fiscal infrastructure in place as the only way to permanently exit the cycle of mismanagement, crisis, and painful school site cuts that prevents funds from getting to the most vulnerable children who need those resources to learn and grow. Redirecting debt payments to fiscal infrastructure allows us to move forward without putting our children’s education at risk. Stand with the Free2Learn Committee on behalf of Oakland Kids.
Thank you for your leadership on this issue.
More on the FREE 2 LEARN campaign
New leadership: The district has a new, home-grown Superintendent, supported by the community, backed by education activists and community-based organizations, and grounded in best practices. The Superintendent has outlined an ambitious ‘Financial Stability Plan’ to redress the problems identified in the most recent FCMAT report. The board has created a budget and finance committee with monthly open meetings—and the first chair of that committee has just been elected as board chair.
Deep community engagement: Parents, community organizations, and labor have joined together to hold our district accountable. More than 5,000 parents came together to support the superintendent campaign and have remained engaged and active through the budget crisis. We are now joining together to support our new Superintendent in her efforts to bring financial stability after years of mismanagement, failed internal controls, poor data collection and irresponsible asset management. We feel confident that OUSD is finally on track to financial stability, but we still have a long way to go. In addition to day-to-day operations, OUSD must address the structural debt from previous fiscal mismanagement while also looking ahead to cover ballooning pension costs and other financial commitments. Even with new leadership in the Superintendent's office and on the Board, we are clear that financial accountability will happen only if parents, students and community stay engaged.
A commitment to accountability: The core elements of the district’s Financial Stability Plan and Budget go beyond the concerns outline in the recent FCMAT Report and are focused on the key fiscal stability steps:
New leadership, full staffing with the experts we need, and capacity building in the Budget Office
Identifying and implementing the financial systems, internal controls, and best practices required to produce accurate, reliable, and transparent information in the site budgets, department budgets and district wide
Replenish the reserve funds needed for the district to maintain financial stability with fluctuations in enrollment and increased pension costs. (Which is currently $5M below where it should be at 3%)
Reducing all non-essential costs, central office budget (putting a 12% cap on infrastructure, Central and Central Supports to school sites per the 88/12 policy) and prioritizing LCFF resources directly to school sites.