California School Districts on the Brink

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The state is taking over a Monterey County school district that was facing bankruptcy and lending it $13 million, state officials announced Wednesday. . . .

School districts must file reports showing their financial health to the state, and the latest reports showed that 19 districts, including King City, would not be able to meet their financial obligations for the school year that just ended, or the upcoming school year, without making drastic cuts.

Eighty-nine districts, including big-city school systems in Los Angeles, Oakland, Santa Ana and Sacramento, are in jeopardy of not meeting their financial obligations in the school year that just ended or the next two years.

Here’s a modest proposal. Districts that actually are bailed out with state money should have to be the first to decentralize central office power and give the money to the schools through student-based budgeting. Districts that can’t manage their resources should have minimal control over resources. These should be the first districts to have the majority of resources follow the students into schools. Alternatively, these districts could be the first to become all charter districts. In this case, each charter school would also receive the money directly from the state without dealing with the central office at all.

Reason Foundation’s student-based budgeting work is here.