Deep Cuts to Oakland (Calif.) Special Ed Programs Blindside Teachers, Families

ANGELA PASCOPELLA's picture
Monday, June 25, 2012

The Oakland school district's special-education programs will take a $4.3 million hit next school year under a plan to fix a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall discovered just a month ago.

The plan to slash the department's budget by more than 6 percent just weeks before the budget deadline was quietly announced on the last week of school in an internal memo to a group of special-education employees. The memo outlines how costs would be cut: bigger class sizes, caseloads pushed to the legal maximum and fewer teachers, aides and other employees, mostly reduced through employees gradually leaving and not being replaced.

Special education will take the brunt of the budget-balancing blow because, according to the district administration, that department was the primary source of the shortfall. An influx of federal stimulus funds masked that the district was not properly monitoring the revenues and expenditures of its special-education programs, Oakland school district spokesman Troy Flint said.

Because the problem was detected so late in the budget cycle, Flint said, it was either cut the special-education budget or redo the district's entire spending plan for 2012-13, which is due by the end of June.

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