It has been over four and a half months since the California Department of Education undertook the highly questionable action of taking over the total operation of the Inglewood Unified School District. During the past months we have experienced a number of critical actions that have caused the CDE’s decisions to be suspect and contradictory to the reasons given by the State Superintendent’s Office for the actual take over. The Inglewood community has been placed in the position of not trusting those agencies given the responsibility to protect the interests of our students and the quality of their education.
The rush to action by the state without a real review of the action plan by the Board of Education and the support team was the first major error which in turned denied the community the Right To Due Process prior to the takeover. The state, without any input by both the Inglewood Board and the County Office assigned an inexperienced superintendent to work with the district to address the financial problems facing the Inglewood School District. Within a couple of months this individual was removed for failing to follow the directions of the State Superintendent’s office and the guidelines for working with the takeover action.
The district is now functioning with the financial office serving in both capacities. This financial officer has not any experience in running a school district which has in turn caused a total lack of confidence at the school and within the community. To add to the trust issue are the number of illegal actions that have led to a number of large law suits with the unions, employees and business interests; that has made the recovery more difficult.
The state has provided the district with a loan of some 55 million dollars that they feel would be needed to deal with the financial problems. This number sounds fine but there is much more to this arrangement that has not been shared with the board or with the community. We now know that in spite of the fact that the state still owes the district 30 million dollars they have required that we secure the loan that they made with select property owned by the district.
According to the records that have been shown, the two state administrators have spent 29 million dollars and we still do not have a plan to improve the district’s financial condition. Prior to the takeover the board had approved actions that indicated that the district would have enough money to last until February 2013. In addition the board had prepared a plan of action that would have brought in additional income that would have allowed us to apply for a county supported loan just as we did in 2012. This type of action is very common among school districts. The management assets plan when speaking with the state did show that the board was on the right track in addressing this short fall created by the state being unable pay it’s bills. The financial condition of the district was greatly improved by the passage of Proposition 30 and the district’s GG Bond of 90 million dollars. The board and the Inglewood community must be provided with an accurate status of the financial condition with all factors bring taken into account.
After reviewing all of the available data and evaluating all of the strange actions taken, it becomes very clear that Inglewood Unified was an unwilling participant in a political play at the highest level. To have a school district taken over in this manner in a state where there is so much attention to education as a political item, leads you to seriously question what really happened in Inglewood. The takeover of the Inglewood Schools was by all accounts an absolute use of power by groups that had nothing to lose but everything to gain. The real losers are the students and the Inglewood community. Here are seven items that support the claim of questionable actions by the state and others:
• The district was projected to have a balance budget until Feb. 2013
• The budget did not contain all of the cuts that the board had approved
• The asset management plan was not given a real review
• The wording of SB355 did not provide for the district to implement its plan to address the shortfall by implementing the management actions
• “The state by our numbers owed the district 31 million dollars due to deferrals of funds from the state
• The county office of education provided the district with a financial advisor to assist with then implementation of the plan to deal with the shortfall and was very surprised and shocked by the action taken by the state
• The previous state administrator worked with CTA to remove all of the cuts made by the board in the 2012-2013 budget along with other serious actions that led to him being fired.
After viewing all of the strange events in context it is hard to believe that our community was treated with any level of respect or decency. The wellbeing of our students and the respect for the transparency of such a serious undertaking requires a full investigation of the entire process. With the passage of Prop.30 our governor has now advanced a plan of funding for the state schools that accounts for the additional monies for districts that have large minority populations.
The extra funding would assist districts like Inglewood to address the critical problems facing the districts as they attempt to really service their students. The needs for additional support for our students and the increased cost of staff salaries and benefits with the reduced funding levels provided by the state is a true recipe for failure for the very individuals who are depending on us for support.
This new view of school funding has caused mixed messages within the educational community and with our governmental establishment as well. Inglewood voters, like most California voters believe that our children deserve the best education possible in order to ensure that they can be a productive contributor in the future of this country. The
trust that this community has shown over the years for the public school system must be rewarded by the elected officials standing up to these special interest groups in order to have our schools returned to community control with the needed financial support and additional assistance where it is needed.
— Arnold Butler, Inglewood Unified School Board member seat 1