Lead Story Local News West Edition

Inglewood schools set to balance budget, officials say

INGLEWOOD — State Trustee Don Brann has announced the Inglewood Unified School District’s budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year will be balanced after many years of the district carrying a budget deficit.

The budget that Brann will present at a board meeting June 29 wipes out the deficit ahead of schedule,  leaving the district on firmer financial footing as it works to get out from under state receivership.

Eugenio Villa, chief business official for the district, said the current budget will close at the end of June with a nearly $5.5 million deficit, but will break even by the end of the next fiscal year, June 30, 2016.

“We are celebrating our first steps out of drowning,” Brann told a reporter.

Joe Bowers
Joe Bowers

But, Joe Bowers, a local education advocate, put a damper on Brann’s enthusiasm.

“They are referring to balancing next year’s budget, so they are talking about a projection,” Bowers said. “It has not happened yet. They are congratulating themselves for something they have not accomplished. [The Los Angeles County Office of Education] has not approved this budget.

In an email to Brann that was also sent to The Wave, Bowers said: “This announcement would be more meaningful after the books for 2015-16 are closed. Your press release reminds me of President Bush standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in front of the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner. You should run the race before declaring you won the gold medal.”

Brann said the balanced budget was achieved through the state’s new revenue distribution system, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which connects dollars with pupil needs.

“In our district, 93 percent of our students qualify for the additional funds bonus,” Brann said. “A student qualifies for the additional [average daily attendance] funding if he or she is an English language learner, on the free school lunch program or living in a foster care home while attending school.

“It has been a long way to turning [the budget] from red to black. The way the state distributed the money was different previously but now the state distributes the money based on need. The more need a district has, the more funding it can receive.”

Brann said balancing the budget was the most important aspect to repairing the problems within the district.

“IUSD teachers have not seen a pay increase in more than seven years,” he said. “Right now, we have been at the table for the last three weeks talking with two local unions about proposed teacher pay raises. Those unions are Inglewood Teachers Association (ITA) and Cal-Pro, a union for classified employees.”

“There is a new advisory board and a great cabinet working around me,” Brann added.

With the state’s new funding distribution formula, the district receives up to $10,000 per student with a specific qualifying need. Because of the need factor, the district can receive up to $3,000 more per student than other California districts with less student need.

But Brann cautioned against residents getting their hopes up about the end of state receivership.

“There are quite a few additional issues that need to be addressed before the IUSD can come out of state receivership,” he said.

When then state Sen. Rob Wright introduced Senate Bill 533 to place the district into the state’s hands in 2012, he included a clause in the bill that appoints the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to provide annual reviews of district schools to assess how the district is recovering. FCMAT rates target areas on a scale of one through 10. In order to be in good standing, the district must score a six or higher in at least five areas.

Currently, the district is being audited by three separate entities which include the state Controller’s Office, the state Auditor’s Office and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. The district also is waiting for its thirdFCMAT assessment report.

The district went into state receivership in 2012 after seeking a loan to avoid bankruptcy. A $55 million line of credit was set up and the state Department of Education took control, making the district the ninth California school district to enter receivership.

The Inglewood Unified School District currently serves over 11,000 students in Los Angeles County and supports 10 elementary schools, two schools that serve kindergarteners through eighth grade students, two middle schools, and three high schools, along with a continuation high school.

Since 2012, the Inglewood Unified School District has been under the control of two different state administrators and a state trustee.