To a degree, the Oakland Raiders have a reputation as an NFL franchise with below average interest in off-the-field issues. As they continue to rebuild their image following the passing of legendary owner Al Davis, they are looking for new ways to reach out to the community. An incredible first step came with the announcement that 10 percent of season ticket money will be donated to the ailing Oakland school system.
The Raiders and their die-hard fans in the “Black Hole” (pictured above) are going to be able to do what politicians cannot and get money to public schools in dire need of increased funding. The funding problems at Oakland Unified Schools are limiting the ability of educators to properly educate in crowded classrooms. Lay-offs and large amounts of debt have made the task even more daunting:
The 2010-11 overall adopted budget reflected cuts of $122 million from the previous year. The district says that this year, it stands to lose $12.6 million from its unrestricted general fund and could lose as much as $32.5 million, under certain conditions, like the failure of the tax extension measure contained in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal. The district has a total budget of $407 million. Also troubling for the district is the fact that its funding from the state continues to be at 2005-06 levels, while costs have continued to rise.
The district’s debt
Oakland Unified School District is carrying a significant deficit. Even if the tax extension proposed by Brown is passed by voters, the school district will still face a $7 million shortfall. Without the tax extension, the district is looking at a $19 million deficit for the next fiscal year. District officials said they can put in place a few one-time savings measures if the extension fails, but that will still leave the district with a deficit of more than $12 million. In any case, OUSD said its very likely that its debt will continue to grow over the next few years.
The layoff of teachers and staff
This week, 538 Oakland school teachers are being formally handed pink slips as result of the district’s budget problems. The cuts include 231 K-5 teachers and 28 sixth-grade teachers. Also being cut were 13 social workers and the entire adult education staff. The district hopes to rescind a few of the layoffs if it gets the state tax extension money, but a large portion of those pink slips will remain in effect, no matter what the outcome in June.
Over the years, Oakland public schools have endured serious cuts and layoffs. According to OUSD, there were layoffs in every unit and department, including adult education, which saw a dramatic reduction in its budget.
With the Raiders leading the way, perhaps other Bay Area businesses will start to help out. One idea, from Yahoo!’s Maggie Hendricks, would include the aforementioned “Black Hole” taking a bigger role in the schools:
Hopefully, the commitment doesn’t stop there. Perhaps the Black Hole could show up at a Spelling Bee or Mathlete competition? Every NFL team gives back, but few have shown such a bold commitment to their community. Kudos to the Raiders and their fans.