Opinion: Strong leadership needed to fix Oakland school finances

The Oakland Unified School District has a serious financial problem. But it is one that can be solved with strong leadership, tough choices, careful planning and ample communication.

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In recent years, Oakland Unified had achieved the highest credit ratings and saved taxpayers millions. So it was more than disappointing last January when the current financial crisis reared its head.

The Board of Education and district leadership had to make mid-year budget changes to address a financial shortfall. The months that followed revealed a pattern of overspending, outdated systems and lack of information about the current state of the district’s finances.

The state of California and the Alameda County Office of Education are monitoring the district and have made it clear that significant changes must made to this year’s budget to avoid state receivership.

What’s at the root of this? First, California deeply underfunds schools and that cannot be glossed over in the conversation. Second, Google “OUSD” and “financial issues” and you will read articles and reports dating back to the 1980s. Some themes run throughout, including overspending, lack of internal controls and outdated systems. Some of the older reports read like they could be written today.

So what will it take to right the ship and change this story?

Get top …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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