Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki @jzubrzycki
The Inglewood Unified School District, a 14,000-student district in Los Angeles County, Calif., has been appointed a new leader by the state, as part of a takeover prompted by the district’s ailing finances. The district’s new state administrator is Kent Taylor, a graduate of the school system he’ll now run. Taylor has been the superintendent at Southern Kern Unified School District since 2011.
The district’s financial woes are the result of state funding cuts and declining enrollment. Inglewood Unified’s student population dropped from 17,969 in 2003-04 to 14,279 in 2011-12. The decline is due partly to a large number of students in the district attending charter schools. Taylor addressed the challenge head on, saying in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that “parents have choices today that they didn’t have before. ... They have private schools, charter schools and the traditional method that we operate, so in my position you really need to be able to market to them well.”
We’ve written before about districts’ attempts to market themselves in the face of growing competition from private schools and charter schools. The Los Angeles Times reported last winter that Inglewood’s previous superintendent had attempted to bolster enrollment by creating shiny new schools and magnet programs, among other initiatives, but that many parents and teachers still weren’t happy with the district’s performance. It will be worth watching to see how the new state administrator attempts to tackle dissatisfaction and budget problems in the district.
Inglewood will be under the state’s authority until the district’s fiscal situation is in better order and is deemed likely to remain so; its loan from the state must be repaid in 20 years. Since 1990, eight other California districts have requested similar emergency loans; five of those have subsequently exited state control. The most recent takeover was of the South Monterey County Joint Union High district, in 2009. The much larger Oakland Unified district was also under the control of a state administrator from 2003-2009 and received a $100 million loan from the state. There’s been some dispute about just how well the state takeovers have worked, but in Oakland, at least the budget was eventually balanced.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.