The state's chronic recession and budget crisis appear to be having a major impact on the financial health of the state's school districts.
While the number of districts and other educational agencies on the state's list of those unable to meet their financial obligations has leveled off somewhat, the number of those in danger of becoming insolvent has been growing sharply, a new state Department of Education report indicates.
The lists, moreover, do not take into account the potentially huge reductions in state school aid that loom this year, especially if Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to extend some temporary tax increases continues to stall in the Legislature or is rejected by voters. He largely exempted K-12 schools from his first round of budget cuts but has indicated they would be hit if the taxes are not extended.
"The emergency confronting California's schools is widening and deepening," state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. "As disturbing as these numbers are, unless the Legislature moves to place the governor's tax extension plan on the ballot, they are just the tip of the financial iceberg facing school districts up and down the state."
There are 13 school systems on the state's "negative certification" list, derived from analysis of data on 1,032 school districts, county offices of education and educational joint powers agencies, up from 12 the previous year but down from a high of 16 in 2008-09. The largest of the 13 is Hayward Unified School District. Sacramento's Natomas Unified also makes the list.
There are 97 other educational agencies on the "qualified certification" list, meaning they are in danger of being unable to meet their obligations. The list is topped by the huge Los Angeles Unified School District but also includes, among other major districts, Oakland Unified, Mount Diablo Unified, Santa Ana Unified, Elk Grove Unified, San Juan Unified. Sacramento City Unified, Fontana Unified, Garden Grove Unified and Stockton Unified.
Overall, Torlakson said, 30 percent of the state's 6 million K-12 students are attending schools in districts that are either already in financial straits or in danger of being there.