Inglewood schools get $17.4 million grant from state


West / California 4 Views

By John W. Davis

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — The Inglewood Unified School District is expected to receive up to $17.4 million in state aid to help balance the school district’s budget between now and 2022.

The funding, which is a grant, not a loan that needs to be paid back, comes from Assembly Bill 1840, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September.

“The money is not just $17 million free and clear,” said D’Artagnan Scorza, who is a member of the Inglewood school board.

While state leaders anticipate providing the district with $17.4 million, the district will have to make about $14.2 million in spending reductions through 2022-23 to remain eligible for the funding.

Inglewood Unified has been under state receivership since 2012.

That’s because the district accepted $55 million in emergency loans from the state to avoid bankruptcy.

Under California law, any district that accepts emergency loans is placed under state control until the loan is paid back.

District leaders expect to make tough decisions to be able to meet the meet benchmarks required by the state.

“I think it’s a good thing for our district,” Scorza said. “It will allow us to stabilize our finances.”

Scorza has been on the school board since 2015 and says declining enrollment has been a major budgetary strain.

“It’s about more than just balancing the budget,” Scorza said.

The funding will help the district address any budget shortfalls but the district will be obligated to simultaneously cut by an equivalent amount.

“This funding provides IUSD the necessary investments to build up the district and the ability to focus its resources on what matters most, educating our children,” said Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, who represents Inglewood in Sacramento. “Without this assistance, IUSD would have been in a dire financial position this and every year after.

“Along with providing direct funding assistance, the bill allows IUSD to raise additional revenue for the school district to better stabilize its future budgets, through the sale and lease of surplus property,” Burke added.

The district will also have to be mindful of teacher and staff pay.

“In two years, we’re going to have to renegotiate our labor contracts to make sure that they are in line with our existing revenues,” Scorza said.

District leaders plan to work with consultants to make sure the district’s management practices are in line with other school districts with similar student enrollments.

Meanwhile, parents and other stakeholders believe the district can be successful if parents, teachers and administrators work together.

“It was really important for me to find out who the administration was, get to know his teachers,” said Kruti Parekh, who has a son who attends Kelso Elementary School in Inglewood.

Parekh shared a prime example of partnership, when she recalled how an out-of-state family emergency caused her son to have poor attendance.

“The principal called me in to meet with me about his attendance and the way that he treated me was so respectful and he was interested in knowing what was going on. It was that encouragement that actually made me get active as a parent,” Parekh said.

“I definitely feel a lot better now that I’m an active parent in my son’s school,” Parekh added.

Parekh wants to see the district do more than survive. She wants to see it thrive.

“It’s a technological world,” Parekh added. “I think that the more creative, the more technologically integrated the classrooms are, and the curriculum is, the more inclined all students will be to learn.

“If classroom sizes were smaller, that would be really helpful also and there are some repairs that are needed on campus that there hasn’t been funding for,” Parekh saidd.

According to the California Department of Education’s website, Inglewood Unified currently has an enrollment of 12,086 students.

If all goes according to the state’s plan, Inglewood Unified would have a 5 percent reserve by 2023.

That would equate to a surplus of about $1.4 million dollars in IUSD’s rainy day fund.

“We’re headed in the right direction and that’s what this boils down to. It’s about putting the district on the right footing so that we can ultimately recover,” Scorza added.