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Funding Schools Equitably Results-Based Budgeting in the Oakland Unified School District

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SOURCE: AP/Jason Hirschfeld

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During the early 2000s, the Oakland Unified School District embarked on a reform initiative that was focused on achievement, accountability and equity. Through their analysis, the leadership team at Oakland Unified realized that there were disparities in student educational outcomes and resources between the schools located in high-income neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods. To correct this issue, the leadership team embarked on a path to equity via funding and budget transparency.

To accomplish this they implemented a new budgeting system called Results-Based Budgeting, which combined elements of Student-Based Budgeting and School-Based Management. SBB is a system that distributes dollars to schools on a per-pupil basis rather than allocating money in the form of staff positions, programs, and other resources. SBM is an organizational structure in which school districts allow decisions about the allocation of resources to be made at the school level, usually by a principal and a committee of teachers. This new Results-Based Budgeting system pushed dollars out to school sites and used actual site-by-site expenditures to develop budgets. In conjunction with its other reform initiatives, the Oakland Unified School District has been the most improved large, urban school district in the state of California over the last three years. Since 2002, Oakland Unified has seen its state Academic Performance Index rise from 568 to 658.

This paper addresses why and how the Oakland Unified School District changed the way it funded schools. Through this revolutionary process, Oakland Unified was the first district in the country to take on the funding inequities that have plagued our schools. By reflecting upon our school districts’ challenges and successes, we can learn ways to address the current loophole that exists today in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (known today as the No Child Left Behind Act) Title I comparability provision discussed elsewhere in this volume. This paper will focus on the following topics:

  • Background on Oakland Unified’s Expect Success Initiative: A short overview of the Oakland school district’s history and budget reform strategy.
  • Funding Allocation Issue: A brief overview of the issue of Oakland’s traditional approach of using average expenditures when budgeting for schools.
  • Oakland Unified’s Solution: An explanation of Results-Based Budgeting, how it differs from other models, and how it addresses the funding allocation issue.
  • Implementation of Results-Based Budgeting: An explanation of the phases of implementation, with key activities highlighted in each phase.
  • Results: Current academic, equity, and financial successes that demonstrate our school district is heading in the right direction.
  • Challenges and Lessons ƒ Learned: Key lessons learned that can be used when considering the implementation of this type of model.
  • State and Technical Assistance ƒ Needed: Suggestions for federal and state authorities to consider when planning on how to help districts address the inequities caused by our funding models.

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