On the 20th day of school, Oakland's district schools counted about 36,260 students. That's 1,750 fewer kids than there were a year ago -- a drop of 4.6 percent, according to 2012-13 enrollment figures recently released by Oakland Unified School District.
Multiply that loss by $5,000, a rough estimate of general-purpose, per-student state funding (otherwise known as the revenue limit), and you're approaching $9 million. OUSD will have that much less to spend in 2013-14, in addition to any statewide trigger cuts and reduced special-purpose money, according to that crude calculation.
What's more, this year's drop follows several years of relatively flat enrollment. The school system experienced a crippling loss of students in the early to mid-2000s, a major factor in its infamous fiscal meltdown, but the trend began to level out a few years ago.
The two most apparent factors influencing this sudden development are last year's school closures and this year's charter school openings -- though as I've reported, Oakland's school-age population (5-17) dwindled by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Six new charter schools opened in Oakland this fall, including three schools that left the district, taking many of their students with them -- in one case, because it was being closed. Enrollment at the new schools adds up to 1,600, bringing the number of children attending an Oakland charter school to 12,500, according to data from the district's Office of Charter Schools (whose coordinator, Gail Greely, took a job at the Alameda County Office of Education as of this past Monday).
The enrollments of the three schools that left OUSD -- ASCEND, Learning Without Limits and Lazear -- account for about 1,100 of those students.
Sometimes charters draw students from outside the city, or those who'd otherwise go to a private school or a public school in a nearby district. Of course, even if we knew that every one of the 1,600 students at the new charter schools would otherwise have enrolled in OUSD, it still wouldn't explain the entire 1,750 enrollment drop.
School closures: By now, I'm pretty sure the district knows how many of the students enrolled in grades K-4 last year at Lakeview, Lazear, Maxwell Park, Marshall and Santa Fe went on to attend another OUSD school, and how many didn't. I've asked for that information, but so far, no luck. I'm told a full analysis and accounting is being prepared for a December meeting, but I don't see why the question can't be answered earlier.
OUSD still has far more students than once projected. I dug up a report from June 2007: The school district was expected to have only 32,000 students by 2012.
There's much to be analyzed in all these numbers, in terms of what's happening, why, and how the changes are affecting schools. What do you think this will mean for OUSD?
This week's campaign filings show another major donation to the political action committee for the Great Oakland Public Schools coalition -- $49,995 from the California Charter Schools Association. That brings the group's fundraising total to $184,980. GO Public Schools is supporting three candidates in Tuesday's nonpartisan school board elections: Jumoke Hinton Hodge in District 3, Rosie Torres in District 5, and James Harris in District 7. It's supporting neither candidate in District 1.
In a letter he posted on an Oakland parents email list, GO's director, Jonathan Klein, responded to some of the concerns that have been circulating about the PAC's biggest contributors, including the San Francisco-based venture capitalist Arthur Rock. Klein stressed that the coalition is in favor of both charter and traditional public schools, that its staff and board members are Democrats, and that the group is being supported by volunteers from across the city.
He wrote, "We are Oakland parents, teachers, and community members who want to see our public schools thrive."
What do you make of this latest contribution? Given that one in every four children who attends a public school in Oakland goes to an independently run charter school, do you feel it's time for the board to embrace this option -- or do what it can to hold the line against their continued expansion?