Over the last twenty years, enrollment in OUSD has declined from approximately 52,000 to an estimated 35,000 in 2021-22. This decline has contributed to many persistent challenges for the District, with OUSD having lower salaries than other districts in Alameda County and having difficulty recruiting and retaining staff. OUSD also struggles to provide all the supports that students need, especially with regard to mental health, early intervention, and adequate support for new teachers.
The District urgently needs a cohesive, intentional strategy to reverse this long-term trend.
The Board has adopted related policies over the years, including the Asset Management Policy, which calls for portable removal and identifies ways to monetize surplus properties that have resulted from the decline in enrollment. Another policy requires an Enrollment Impact Analysis, which examines the potential impact on enrollment of decisions before the Board. The Community of Schools Policy details several steps to address improved school quality, which is clearly related to enrollment.
However, none of these policies presents a comprehensive approach to reversing the decline in enrollment.
This policy calls for dedicating central staff positions to supporting schools to reach out to families; for schools, board members and central departments to identify ways to support enrollment growth and stabilization; and for the District to stop using resources to promote enrollment in competing schools.
While being removed from OUSD's enrollment system and parent guides will clearly impact charter schools, this policy is not intended as an attack on charter schools.
Rather it is intended to support OUSD in stabilizing our enrollment, which is the foundation for a fiscally healthy school district. It is one part of a broader strategy to stabilize the district, including our efforts through the Blueprint for Quality Schools to redesign and improve schools like Fruitvale, Frick United, Elmhurst United and more to come, and to expand quality schools where they already exist, such as MetWest, CCPA and MLA.
These paired strategies should help us to address some of the budgetary challenges of recent years (budget cuts, layoffs, strikes, etc) by addressing both the root cause (the need for more quality school options for Oakland families) and contributing factors (facilitating enrollment in competing schools).
I look forward to feedback on the policy at upcoming community engagement meetings.