The main reason that the district is broke....students fleeing the failing school district to non-union charter schools where they can get an eduction and not end up on the government dole.
Democrats howl about bank bailouts, but then they also treat public schools as if they're too big to fail. As a case in point, California Governor Jerry Brown is throwing the Inglewood school district in Los Angeles's South Bay a $55 million lifeline in the name of "saving" 14,000 kids. But as with most government bailouts, the real intended beneficiaries are the unions.
Democrats in Sacramento rushed through legislation in August authorizing the state to take over and issue emergency loans to Inglewood district, which otherwise would have run out of cash by the end of the year. Unlike cities, school districts can't declare bankruptcy. If a district can't pay its bills, the state appoints a receiver to balance its books and run the schools in lieu of the superintendent and local school board.
The unions are blaming Inglewood's shortfall on education cuts, but per-pupil spending is about the same as it was five years ago. The real problem (other than too generous benefits, which are an issue in most districts) is that enrollment has declined by more than 20% since 2006, which has shrunk the total pot of available money. Many of the city's working class families have left. Meanwhile, about 10% of students have fled to charter schools—and for that the unions have only themselves to blame.
Seven charters have sprouted up within the last five years as alternatives to Inglewood's failing schools, which are among the worst in the state. Only 30% of seventh graders meet state math standards while merely a quarter of 11th graders are proficient in English. The charters outperform traditional schools by 100 to 200 points on the state Academic Performance Index (which ranges from 200 to 1000). Most charters also operate at lower cost.
The district intends to float bonds to renovate facilities in order to draw back students, but energy efficient buildings and a spiffy, new athletic center won't make up for a poor education. And they sure won't help close the district's $10 million structural deficit.
The district recently trimmed employees' salaries by 15% to keep schools open, but the soon-to-be-appointed state receiver will likely rescind the pay cut. More ominously, the receiver has the power to reject new charter applications and limit existing charter schools' growth. State superintendent Tom Torlakson is a union pal, and the fear among reformers is that he'll use the bailout to create a kind of Berlin Wall to keep students from fleeing Inglewood's second-class public schools.
Jerry Brown's School Bailout