ORIGINALLY POSTED 2014-03-11 11:34:36 -0700 UPDATES WITH QUOTES FROM AADUSD SUPERINTENDENT
Struggling with teacher layoffs, a school closure and takeover and declining enrollments, Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District officials still plan to have a “qualified” budget certification for the district by the end of the school year, an official said Tuesday.
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The budget of a Santa Clarita Valley school district was placed on the “negative certification” list from the state’s superintendent of California schools.
An Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District official discussed a recent history of financial woes Tuesday, due in part to the state budget crisis, but more significantly, to decreasing enrollments.
“A negative certification is assigned to a local (school district) when it’s determined that, based upon current projections, the local educational agency will not meet its financial obligations for fiscal year 2013-14 or 2014-15,” according to the California Department of Education website.
AADUSD includes Agua Dulce School, Meadowlark School, High Desert School and Vasquez High School, as well as oversight for Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences, as well as Assurance Learning Academy, RenArts K-12, SCALE and Academy of Arts & Sciences.
While the state’s improved budget picture has helped the school district, the new funding formula isn’t restoring student resources to anywhere close to 2008 levels, said AADUSD Superintendent Brent Woodard.
“The outlook improved but not drastically for us,” Woodard said. “In no way shape or form, did this come even close to where we were before 2008 — we’ve been cut, cut and cut for five years.”
The situation at AADUSD has been exacerbated by declining enrollments and the lack of furlough days, he said.
Despite the adversity, the district fully expects to be back to “qualified” status by the end of the year, Woodard said. But there are more cuts coming.
At the next AADUSD meeting, the district is plannig to announce more layoffs ahead of the state’s March 15 deadline, and come next year, the district will be shutting down Agua Dulce Elementary, and turning it into an Einstein Academy charter school, Woodard said.
“We’re closing the school and they want it, so we’ve authorized them to come in and take it over,” Woodard said. “We’re not taking it lightly, we clearly understand where the need is.”
District officials expect to have a 3 percent reserve in place by the end of the year, he said.
Part of the financial problem from the state’s perspective has been a conscious decision at the local level to avoid furlough days, Woodard said, noting that only two have been given in the last five years.
“We’ve been kicking the can down the road for years,” Woodard said. “We expect the end of the year to be positive and then we hope to take a leap forward next year.”
This certification means the district’s county office of education, in AADUSD’s case, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, could have intervened in the district’s finances.
The assistance or intervention by the county office of education may include assigning external consultants, requiring a district fiscal recovery plan or disallowing certain district expenditures.
Because the teachers union voted to step away from the bargaining table, the district went to mediation, and is currently in the “fact-finding phase” of that process, Woodard said. That has also weighed on the district’s ability to straighten out its finance.
However, the North Los Angeles County school district’s financial woes have been an impetus behind the push for a charter school approval, Woodard said.
AADUSD officials drew the ire of several Santa Clarita Valley school district officials when it approved the location for an Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Science charter school outside of the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District boundaries.
That school site is now operating between two AADUSD sites due to Einstein officials inability to gain approval for a Rye Canyon Road site.
“Californians have put our schools back on the path toward economic recovery after several years and billions of dollars of cuts, and they are working hard to continue down that path,” said state Superintendent Tom Torlakson. “Although our work won’t be done until every school is in solid financial shape, this is certainly movement in the right direction.”
This year’s First Interim Status Report, FY 2013-14 shows that a total of 49 local districts are either in negative or qualified financial status. This is down significantly from the last report—in May 2013—that showed 92 districts with this status, and is down even more significantly from the same report a year ago.
In the First Interim Status report of 2013, there were 124 local districts in financial jeopardy.
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Source: Santa Clarita News