| While the Legislature is busy trying to figure out how to cut as fast as they can, some school districts are at risk of not being able to cover their expenses at all. Kim Wetzel at MediaNews rounded up some data:
A recent analysis found that 19 districts statewide have filed "negative" interim budget certifications; 89 districts filed "qualified" certifications. Two years ago, there were just five with negative budgets and 19 qualified.
"Billions of dollars of state budget cuts to education have left school districts with deficits that school boards and administrators are attempting to address," O'Connell said at a news conference in San Jose. "The decisions they have been forced to make are heartbreaking: increasing class size, laying off teachers and classified staff; eliminating summer school; canceling arts, music, and sports. These are choices no educator in California wants to make. But the alternative is bankruptcy and entering state receivership."(IBA 7/1/09)
Basically, a negative certification means that the district "will be unable to pay the bills for the remainder of the current year or the subsequent year." The qualified certification means there is a risk of being unable to meet the obligations. You can grab the complete list here.
The largest districts to be negatively certified are Pajaro Valley Unified in Santa Cruz County, and quite unsuprisingly enough, Vallejo City Unified. Of course, the City of Vallejo is currently in bankruptcy proceedings as we speak, so not a good time to be an elected official in Vallejo, I guess.
But what happens if these districts can't cut their way out of it? DO they simply stop paying teachers? Send class sizes to 60 per teacher? Stop air conditioning the buildings? Certainly the state won't be there to bail them out, and while some districts are getting parcel taxes passed, the 2/3 requirement for those votes makes them difficult to pass in some locations. Apparently some would rather that their children be educated in cramped classrooms with poor facilities.
As to whether districts can declare bankruptcy - that still seems a stretch. The districts have decent mechanisms for layoffs when they are out of cash, but that is clearly only hurting our own future.