Two years after it was taken over by the state because it was on the brink of bankruptcy, Inglewood Unified is still struggling with its finances.
In documents filed with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, the district predicts it will spend 3.7 percent more money in the coming school year than it’s taking in, despite increases in state funding.
County education officials approved the district's budget, but sounded a warning.
“We request that the District monitor the projected deficit to ensure that it remains manageable,” Christopher Bundy, a county education official, wrote in a four-page letter to Inglewood Unified last week.
He was also concerned by Inglewood's projection that it'll lose 11 percent of its students in the next two years.
"The District will lose state funding over time if the decline in enrollment continues," he wrote, "and it must carefully monitor its enrollment trends and adjust its financial projections accordingly."
Audits of Inglewood Unified following a 2012 state takeover have shown a mix of mismanagement and failure to cut costs led to the school district's insolvency.
Ten years ago, Inglewood Unified educated 17,458 students. Loss of state funds due to many of those students migrating to charter schools - or leaving Inglewood altogether - were part of what caused the district's financial problems.
Unable to pay the bills, the school board requested a state loan in 2012. The loan triggered state receivership, which led to the superintendent losing his job and the school board losing its powers.
The district predicts its enrollment this year will be 9,832 and will drop further to 8,749 in the 2016-17 school year.
“I’m doing all I can to make that a pessimistic prediction,” said Don Brann, Inglewood's state appointed trustee. "Because every student who comes in the door is worth about $8,200, we lose about $8,200 for everyone that drops."
He's creating dual language immersion programs, intensive reading programs, and lowering class sizes to both improve learning and entice parents to keep their kids in the district's traditional public schools.
“It’s the mother of all challenges," Brann said. "My message from the beginning has been one of hope and self-reliance. I’m still optimistic that we are going to turn it.”
If he doesn't, the district may have to resort to layoffs.
The former longtime administrator at tiny Wiseburn School District in Hawthorne, Brann has been running Inglewood one year.
The union representing non-teaching school employees has been critical of his tenure. Brann laid off 44 non teaching employees earlier this year, which the CalPro union said would diminish safety and cleanliness at most Inglewood schools.