Eighth question from the Teachers' Union Endorsement Interview - this was submitted 5 weeks ago, before it became clear that the nation will be entering a recession due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- What actions would you take to prevent mismanagement and misguided budget priorities by OUSD? What is your plan to ensure the district’s long term financial stability and how will you hold district administrators accountable to that plan?
I have already mentioned zero-based budgeting for central office. We also need more transparency and accountability in our budgeting process. For example, I have heard it said that OUSD spends too much on consultants and contractors. I have also heard it said that that is not true, that the vast majority of those expenses are for required special education costs. Why isn’t there an easy way for me to find out who is right? As a Board member, I would insist that this information be available online.
There is a volunteer project called OpenOakland.org that shows how our city budget is financed and spent. I will work with district staff and volunteers to make sure this kind of information is available freely online for our school district as well. There are a lot of different opinions about whether poor financial practices under Antwan Wilson have ended or are still continuing. With more transparency, this would not be a matter of opinion, but clearly visible to the public.
We also need to support our citizen oversight committees to be able to fully execute their roles. I am most familiar with the Construction Bond Oversight Committee, and I support including strong oversight in our bylaws and in the language of the new bond measure, so that voters can have confidence that the mismanagement of Measure J funds will not continue. Claremont Middle School was one of the victims of that mismanagement, since the cafeteria that burned down in 2015 was never replaced, as it was supposed to with the help of Measure J funds. My son has no cafeteria as a direct result of this financial malfeasance.
Again, accountability starts at the top, so as a Board member I would definitely include improving financial management in the Superintendent’s work plan, and hold him or her accountable to that goal.
Our teachers and other school staff are drastically underpaid, especially considering our high cost of living, which leads to high turnover and hurts our students. If Schools and Communities First passes, the board must prioritize setting as much money aside as possible for employee raises. We also need to continue to advocate at the state and local level for new measures to increase funding for education, because California is 41st in per pupil spending, and will still be behind other states, even if SCF passes.