Assemblywoman Autumn Burke is the newly elected representative for the 62nd District. One of her main priorities, since assuming office, is working to restore local control, of the Inglewood Unified School District, back to Inglewood residents. The Los Angeles Wave has printed some lofty allegations to diminish her efforts and she has sent this op-ed to 2 Urban Girls to help set the record straight.
From the desk of Asm. Autumn Burke
Three years ago the state of California loaned the Inglewood Unified School District $55 million to keep the district solvent. In exchange for the emergency funds,State Superintendent Torlakson appointed a trustee to manage the day-to-day operations of the district, reducing Inglewood’s locally-elected school board to an advisory role.
Since that time, IUSD has had three state-appointed trustees running the district, and Torlakson is in the process of finding the fourth, after the current trustee announced his retirement earlier this summer.
This has not been an easy process for anyone, especially Inglewood students. They are the ones who are paying the price for mistakes that others made in the past.
When I took office nine months ago, I made the commitment to provide unofficial oversight of IUSD and the state’s role in running it. We need to make sure the district gets its financial house in order, but not on the backs of the students. We need to make sure the schools are offering a high quality curriculum that prepares our students for a brighter future.
On all counts, we are making progress.
At the time of the takeover, IUSD had a large budget deficit, it was losing students every day and it was in need of some serious help. .
On February, 27 2015,I led a delegation of state legislators with Torlakson on a tour of some schools in Inglewood. The conditions we found—blacked out windows, broken bathroom fixtures, and low morale—were deplorable.
To ensure community engagement, on April 11, 2015,I hosted a formal town hall at Inglewood City Hall, where the public heard from district officials, local education experts, and state auditors about the district’s progress. Plans are in place for revised curricula that prepare students for college and careers; repairs and cleaning have already been done at many school sites and that work is ongoing; and the district is on track for a balanced budget, which is a major step in the process to return local control to IUSD.
When the community complained that school board meetings were being held so early in the day that they, and even some board members, couldn’t attend, I wrote a letter to the district requesting they start the meetings later. And they did.
But we cannot rest. We will soon have the results of a state audit which will provide further guidance on where we go from here. We’ll have the latest progress report that measures the district on all of the benchmarks they have to meet to regain local control. And,we will have a new trustee who will have to build on the work that has already been done. And I plan to be there every step of the way.
As Inglewood’s elected representative in the Assembly, it’s my job to advocate for my community—the teachers, the parents, and most importantly, the students. That’s a job I take seriously and it’s why I have spent so much time focused on IUSD.
I have met with and continue to meet with all Inglewood stakeholders, to hear their concerns so that I can ensure that the state, and Superintendent Torlakson, is working cooperatively with our community to improve IUSD. As he makes his decision on a new trustee, I want to make sure that he hears directly from you, the people, about your concerns.
There’s so much more to do, and I’m in it for the long haul. To keep up-to-date, residents can always visit my website, www.iusdupdate.com to receive the latest information on the district’s progress and to view all of the relevant state reports.
Inglewood and all California communities deserve educational excellence and clean and safe schools. Let’s continue to work toward improving Inglewood Unified School District. We can succeed if we work together.
Assemblywoman Burke is the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Career Technical Education and Building a 21 Century Workforce, and a member of the Assembly Committees on Accountability and Administrative Review, Health, Housing and Community Development, Utilities and Commerce, and Rules, as well as the Legislative Black Caucus, Legislative Environmental Caucus, and the Legislative Women’s Caucus. She represents the cities of Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale, El Segundo, and Gardena, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, and Del Rey, and communities of Del Aire, West Athens, Lennox, Westmont, and Marina del Rey.