County schools drowning in deficits
May 23, 2012
Five San Luis Obispo County school districts have made the state’s list of most fiscally endangered, and California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson said those districts, and more than 180 others in this state, face bankruptcy — a record number.
Saddled with the biggest deficit weight is Paso Robles Joint Unified, which this year earned the dubious distinction of joining 11 California districts facing a “negative declaration” — meaning it will not meet its financial obligations during the coming fiscal year. The district’s current fiscal requirement is $56.2 million, according to district officials.
SLO County districts wearing a “qualified certification” include Atascadero Unified, Lucia Mar Unified, San Miguel Joint Union (Elementary), and Shandon Joint Unified. Such a designation is assigned to a local educational agency when it may not meet its financial obligations during the next three fiscal years.
Nearly one-fifth of California school districts and county offices of education are risking bankruptcy, Torlakson said Tuesday following release of a report from the California Department of Education. The report looks at all California’s 1,037 school systems. A record-high 188 of California’s 1,050 districts and county offices did not receive a clean rating in a mid-year financial report required by the state. That means that within three years, projected revenues will not be able to cover expenses.
“This is the kind of record no one wants to set,” Torlakson said. He blamed the schools’ uncertainty on the state budget crisis.
The educational fate of 2.6 million children in this state will worsen if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, or a competing tax measure, are turned down by voters in November, according to his administration. Currently, the state is shaving 20 percent in overall funding, and deferring payment of millions of dollars, to schools. This in turn is forcing schools to increase class sizes, eliminate services, shorten calendars, furlough teachers and students to save on payroll, and seek parcel tax relief.
Paso Robles schools are on three-day schedules now, due to teacher furloughs.