District at a deficit

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North Chicago District 187 has historically lacked the money for the programs they put into place, as evidenced by the fact that the district operated for years at a deficit; the district was millions of dollars in the red by 2011 when the state finally began taking over, in part in response to the district’s attempt to sell bonds to continue deficit spending.

From Judy Masterson in the Lake County News-Sun of March 15, 2012:

The state order (overturning a North Chicago School Board vote against the establishment of a new charter school in the district) is critical of School Board members who argued that even if military enrollments continue to decline, lawmakers would not allow the district to dissolve. It cited another “glaring example” of the “district’s apparent failure to appreciate the tenuousness” of its financial predicament: The June 2010 decision to sell $39.5 million in revenue bonds funded primarily using federal impact aid, a move that, according to the order, has placed the district on the brink of a financial meltdown.

Many school districts across America are barely getting by. The following was taken from an educationclearinghouse article from October 2011 about the changes that lack of funds can make in a school district. This snippet and its accompanying graph help quantify the problem (http://educationclearinghouse.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/the-changes-that-insolvency-can-make-in-a-school-district/):

“Across the state (California), more school districts are edging closer to insolvency, according to the state agency responsible for overseeing districts’ financial health. After the housing bubble burst and Wall Street crashed three years ago, the number of districts flagged by state officials as nearing insolvency spiked.”

This graph does not fully capture the picture, however. For example, the bars do not include San Diego. According to the article, the San Diego Unified District had not been flagged by state officials since the district reported that it expected to be able to pay its bills for the following two years, using money expected from the state. Yet as of December 11th, 2011, the San Diego Unified School Board was considering spending cuts, trying to deal with possible insolvency, because major cuts were expected to come down from the state unless “something drastic happens.”[1] Board members were considering cutting 55 positions and imposing a district-wide hiring freeze, shutting down non-critical overtime, raiding the reserves and selling property just so that the district could pay its bills. By May 24, 2012,[2] the San Diego Board of education trustees finalized more than 1,500 layoffs – most of them teachers.

A KPBS news article describes the situation perfectly:Teachers in San Diego schools have been through years of seeing pink slips issued and then rescinded, so many expect the same to happen this year. But Lorena Gonzalez, secretary and CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said Thursday that sitting back and waiting for the district’s more than $120 million deficit to work itself out won’t work this time.

“You see what’s happening up and down our state with the number of school districts that are facing the same kind of economic crisis we’re seeing here,” she said. “Things are different.”