Fewer California school districts in financial trouble, state says

March 11, 2014

For the second straight year, the number of California school districts facing financial turmoil has dropped significantly.

The California Department of Education on Tuesday released its first interim status report on districts’ financial health for the 2013-14 academic year. The report found that 49 out of 1,038 districts received a negative or qualified certification, the lowest certifications, which signal financial difficulty. That’s down from 92 last May.

“Californians have put our schools back on the path toward economic recovery after several years and billions of dollars of cuts,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a statement. A number of factors are creating an increase in education funding, including the economic recovery, the Local Control Funding Formula, and voter approval of Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase to help fund education.

“Although our work won’t be done until every school is in solid financial shape, this is certainly movement in the right direction,” Torlakson said.

Of the 49 districts on the list, eight received the most serious classification of negative certification, meaning it’s very unlikely that they’ll be able to pay their bills this academic year and probably the year after.

The eight districts are Orland Joint Unified in Glenn County, Acton-Agua Ducle Unified, El Rancho Unified and Inglewood Unified in Los Angeles County, San Ysidro Elementary in San Diego County, Denair Unified in Stanislaus County, and Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified and Windsor Unified in Sonoma County.

Eight school districts probably won’t have enough money to pay their bills this year and received negative financial certification in the First Interim Status Report for 2013-14. Source: California Dept. of Education

These eight, along with the 41 districts that received “qualified” status, enroll 1.2 million students. Qualified certification indicates that the district may fall short this year or in the two succeeding years.

The Department releases two status reports a year. The first reflects districts’ finances as of Oct. 31 of that school year. The second covers the period ending Jan. 31, and is usually released in May.

When a district is designated with negative certification, the County Office of Education can step in and provide various levels of intervention from bringing in consultants to taking control over some expenditures.

Inglewood Unified has been on the negative list since the 2010-11 academic year. In September 2012, the state Legislature approved an emergency state loan of up to $55 million and the Department of Education took over the district and appointed a state administrator.

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