A letter that signaled the Oakland Unified School District was in financial trouble no longer holds water, according to the very agency that sent out that letter in the first place.
The Alameda County Office of Education rescinded its “going concern” letter to the OUSD in a letter Thursday. The original letter had called for increased oversight of the district’s finances.
“One of the important things it signals is it reaffirms that the OUSD is not in financial crisis,” said Mike Hutchinson, a member of the district school board and the director for District 5. “That’s an important fact, because we’re not [in financial crisis]. We have large reserves. We’re projecting surpluses, and we still have COVID relief dollars — more than $100 million — left. The finances are actually better than they’ve been in a long time.”
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L.K. Monroe wrote in a letter to Oakland school board president Gary Yee on Thursday that she is “willing to remove the Lack of Going Concern determination effective immediately.”
Yee wrote the original letter in November in which she cited concerns for the OUSD’s budget in future years, and that as a result, the district’s financial decisions could fall into the hands of the Financial Crisis Management Action Team.
The change in heart came as a result of the “most recent Governing Board actions supporting OUSD’s Budget projections, and the OUSD staff directed to implement the detailed budget balancing solutions.”
Monroe previously warned the Oakland school board they weren’t doing enough to reduce staff levels or adopting a long-term financial plan, and were relying on one-time revenues to stay afloat instead of making the deep funding cuts needed. State officials concluded the district hadn’t done enough to solve its looming budget deficit especially as it faces declining enrollment, and the county office could intervene.
She also said that “to avoid a Lack of Going Concern designation in the future,” the district must meet conditions that include third interim budget with school board-approved reductions by June 1.
Emails to officials with the county’s education office went unanswered Saturday.
Hutchinson called Monroe’s change of plans a “huge relief,” but also criticized her for what he said was an unfair attack.
“It’s really unfair that the Alameda County superintendent did this to us in this time period,” Hutchinson said. “It was an attack on our reputation saying we couldn’t manage our finances, and she was gonna step in out of the blue during a pandemic, It’s important that our community know that we are managing our finances.”
In her letter, Monroe wrote that “the work of achieving fiscal stability for Oakland Unified is critical to the District’s ability to serve the students and families of Oakland.”