OUSD Pays $1.4 Million to County Overseers
Mar 21, 2019
FCMAT CEO Michael Fine was previously deputy superintendent for business services of the Riverside Unified School District. Photo courtesy of John Fensterwald, EdSource.
By Ken Epstein
A recent report produced by the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) reveals how under a recently passed state law, AB 1840, the Alameda County Office of Education (COE) collaborating with FCMAT, will oversee the Oakland Unified School District, at a cost to the district of $1.4 million this year.
According to the 267-page FCMAT report, released on March 1, “The Alameda COE estimates a total of 7,320 hours for 2019-20 to provide support and intervention to the district to comply with AB 1840. The … cost for this support is $1,427,588. For 2020-21, the Alameda COE anticipates fewer hours of support, with a cost estimate of $1,204,400.”
This represents a fee of $195 an hour.
FCMAT operates in Bakersfield from the office of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools under contract with the California Department of Education and the governor’s office. The agency works in school districts throughout California enforcing financial accountability, meaning that the agency requires local educators to adopt difficult austerity measures, such as school closures and cuts to educational programs.
Working together, FCMAT and Alameda County Office of Education are supervising OUSD under the terms of AB 1840, which “provides for several changes in the oversight of fiscally distressed districts and sets forth specific requirements for the Oakland Unified School District in exchange for providing financial resources under certain circumstances.”
Reflecting changes in political realities in Sacramento, the structure of state dominance of the local districts is shifting, according to FMAT, designed to give an appearance of preserving local control.
Instead of continuing with a “state centric system” of receivership, legislators want the system “ to be more consistent with the principles of local control,” according to FCMAT.
Under AB 1840, state oversight of the district has been transferred from Sacramento to the Alameda County of Office of Education, which is working collaboratively with FCMAT.
“AB 1840 shifts the former state-centric system… Several duties formerly assigned to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) are now assigned to the county superintendent, with the concurrence of the SPI and the president of the State Board of Education”
Further, the state trustee now reports to the county.
“Under AB 1840, the state trustee assigned to the district now reports to the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools, and no longer reports to the (state superintendent),” the report said.
If the present state trustee leaves, a new state trustee would be “selected from a list of candidates identified and vetted by FCMA and be appointed jointly by the county superintendent, SPI and president of the State Board of Education,” according to the report.
There is no mention in the report that many Oaklanders consider local control as meaning that Oakland voters and their elected school board have ultimate authority over education policy – not that the state makes all the decisions through its representatives based at the County Office of Education in Hayward and Bakersfield.