INGLEWOOD – Inglewood parents continue to fight plans to close Warren Lane Elementary School in the city of Inglewood.
Families in the Morningside Park area of Inglewood, held a community meeting April 23 which was attended by candidates up for re-election this year.
The event was promoted by Taj Powell and his wife Mary Chang, who are vocal critics of the closure.
“My child literally could walk to this school, it’s the ideal scenario,” says Powell. “I have family in the neighborhood and it’s a community. Not having a school in it, it’s hard to imagine.”
“So why wouldn’t you want a school in a neighborhood like that?” says Powell, who started an online petition to stop the closure with his wife Mary Chang. “You would never dream of closing the school in Beverly Hills.”
Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen-Miles is aggressively campaigning to represent the area in the State Assembly, to fill the term of Autumn Burke, who abruptly resigned to work for a high-profile consulting firm based in Sacramento.
Pullen-Miles issued a statement in support of keeping Warren Lane and attributing state funding as the culprit behind Inglewood Unified’s fiscal condition.
“I am urging the State of California to use the funds in our budget surplus to pay off the debt owed by Inglewood Unified School District,” wrote Pullen-Miles.
Members of an Oakland based parent group, Oakland Not For Sale, recently met with Inglewood parents last month, and shared their plans to also ask the Governor to absolve the emergency loan debts of multiple school districts, including those in Inglewood and Oakland.
“We have met with legislators, and Newsom who has signaled he would consider absolving the debt, but not just for Oakland, it would need to be for all districts forced to take emergency loans,” said Saru Jayaraman, with Oakland Not For Sale.
Pullen-Miles appears to be working closely with school board member Brandon Myers and Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who joined him at the community meeting, and on phone calls with select members of the community to discuss their plans to save the district.
Pullen-Miles believes the district has made significant progress, however due to the declining enrollment, it poses a significant challenge in their efforts to pay of their debt.
The district recently entered into a development agreement with Harridge Developers, to develop unused land at the campus of Morningside and Woodworth Elementary.
Woodworth was previously combined with Monroe Middle School.
Inglewood Unified previously planned to lease the land to Majestic Realty, whose owner contributed to Burke’s campaign, was pulled from the agenda due to “leasing terms” not being accurate.
The deal calls for annual payments to the district that assist with operation costs, including repayment of the annual $1.8 million payment towards the emergency loan granted under SB 533.
Inglewood Unified School District enrollment has dropped by more than half from an early 2000’s high of over 17,000 students to today’s low of 7,950. In the neighboring Los Angeles Unified School District, enrollment has dropped by 40% over the same period. Public school enrollment is projected to keep declining over the next decade.
The declining enrollment continues to be attributed to low birth rates, as opposed to the number of charter schools being approved in close proximity to Inglewood Unified schools. Some of which were underperforming.
The district sought to address the problem when they revoked the charter of Children of Promise Academy and Fresh Start Charter, who is currently in litigation with the state.
CA State Superintendent Tony Thurmond could not be reached for comment, nor has he made any public comments on the situation in Inglewood.
Assembly candidate Tina McKinnor, is running against Pullen-Miles, and currently holds a roughly 2,000 vote lead heading into the June run-off.
McKinnor was instrumental in the elections of Autumn Burke, and former Inglewood school board members D’artagnan Scorza, who all ran on a platform of returning the district to local control. They have all since left.
McKinnor was also a member of then Assemblymember Steve Bradford’s office when discussions ramped up to place the district in receivership if they took out the emergency loan.
McKinnor’s was asked about her commitment to serving the assembly district’s residents, her position on using the budget surplus to clear debts of school district’s with emergency loans, and the fundamental difference between her and her opponents.
Her campaign has yet to respond.