“Do-gooders” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when trying to describe the Oakland Raiders team or its fan-base, but this year, the people behind the storied NFL franchise are looking to change that. They have made a commitment to donate 10% of all season tickets purchased and paid-for between May 1st and June 30th to Oakland’s public schools. With the ticket prices falling between $250 and $1,510, that could spell quite a boon for the struggling school system.
The money couldn’t have come at a better time, as Oakland is dealing with education budget shortfall that has threatened teaching jobs and school closures. Last year, the schools lost $122 million from their operating budget due to funding cuts — and further cuts are anticipated. Furthermore, the district is carrying more than $19 million of 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.
Last year, in order to meet its operating costs, OUSD was forced to lay off 538 teachers, 13 social workers and all the staff in its adult-education division. Although this isn’t the first time that the district had to make tough staffing choices, these were the deepest cuts it had to implement in decades.
No doubt, the Raiders’ Saturday announcement was welcomed by the beleaguered district administrators, and according to the Raiders’ President Amy Trask, the team is glad to take a stake in improving schools for kids in Oakland.
“We are thrilled to announce our newest youth and community based initiative and we are delighted to assist the Oakland Unified School District.”
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com explained that this move to combine business and altruism isn’t new for the organization. During the recent lockout, the Raiders were the only team who avoided laying off staff or even forcing them to take a cut in pay, instead all those who found themselves temporarily furloughed were asked to use the time to sell season tickets. Maybe, with the incentive of helping kids, they might volunteer to do so again.