Re-elect LK Monroe Alameda County Schools Superintendent

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Alameda County voters who care about the financial solvency of their local school districts should re-elect LK Monroe as County Superintendent of Schools.

The choice is between Monroe, who has admirably taken on the responsibility of presenting the unvarnished truth about the finances of the county’s 18 school districts, and Alysse Castro, a candidate backed by the teachers’ union who has falsely claimed that the county superintendent triggered Oakland’s controversial school closings.

For public education in the county, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The County Superintendent of Schools is the bulwark against fiscal imprudence. Without honest, independent oversight of finances, more districts will end up teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, resulting in classroom cuts and a decline in the quality of education.

Monroe is the only candidate in the June 7 election who will provide this essential independent oversight. She won another term.

As administrator of the county’s office of education, the superintendent is also responsible for the education of teenage mothers and students in the juvenile justice system, teacher training programs, curriculum development, and education. technological assistance for the districts.

But it’s the task of scrutinizing local school districts’ finances — and sounding the alarm when it’s heading for a financial cliff or unrealistically forecasting its budget numbers — that gets the most attention.

It’s no surprise that the superintendent can come under political attack for being the bearer of bad tax news. However, blaming the messenger will not solve the underlying issues.

Oakland history

The story of what happened in Oakland is key to understanding why Monroe deserves another term, and Castro’s irresponsible and inaccurate turn should eliminate him from voter consideration.

It’s a story that could repeat itself in any financially troubled district in Alameda County. Currently, Monroe is also concerned about the fragile finances of the San Lorenzo and Hayward school districts, as well as two others she oversees but isn’t ready to name.

The most politically charged case was Oakland. After that district nearly went bankrupt in 2017, state lawmakers promised annual bailouts of $10 million if Oakland administrators made progress in stabilizing their finances.

As part of the bailout agreement, the Legislature ordered Monroe to take “all necessary steps to ensure that the school district meets its financial obligations.” One of the options listed was the consolidation of schools.

But it was ultimately up to Oakland school board administrators whether they wanted to continue getting the extra money, consolidate schools, or find other savings.

That changed in June 2021 when the Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom made the annual bailout conditional on the “timely implementation” of school consolidations. Closures were no longer optional for Oakland; they were required.

With reason. While the school closures were only part of the necessary budget savings, they were critical and long overdue. Average enrollment in Oakland schools is the lowest of California’s 50 largest districts. Keeping schools small creates unnecessary administrative and maintenance costs, siphoning off money that could be better used in classrooms.

Then, in November, Monroe provided a financial analysis that showed Oakland might not meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year and beyond — and risked losing its annual state bailout payment because he was not making progress in right-sizing his finances.

Monroe called on the state’s Fiscal Management and Crisis Assistance Team, which had been involved for years, for more assistance. In January, the crisis team reported that the district had a structural budget deficit of more than $60 million a year and may not qualify for the annual bailout because it did not have a shutdown plan. school.

These warnings eventually prompted the district council to act, with major budget cuts and the closing, merging or downsizing of 11 schools.

Political twist

Throughout this drama, it is important to note that Monroe did not demand that schools be closed. She didn’t have the power to do it even if she wanted to. The school closures were mandated by the state and implemented by the Oakland School Board.

Nonetheless, Castro, who oversees alternative school programs for the San Francisco Bureau of Education, blamed Monroe and used the ordeal as political fuel.

In an email last week, reiterating the essence of comments from a previous interview, Castro wrote that “in choosing to call (the State Crisis Team) in November, which she should have Knowing she would insist on school closures, Monroe triggered unnecessary school closures amid the pandemic.

What Castro’s twist ignored was that Monroe was mandated by the legislature to ensure the school district met its financial obligations, that the crisis team had been actively involved since the bailouts began, and that it was neither Monroe nor the crisis team who demanded the school closures. . It was the legislature.

Monroe’s job was to present the unvarnished truth to Oakland about her finances and make sure the district found a way to pay her bills — and she did it admirably.

LK Monroe has demonstrated that regardless of the district involved, she will carry out her duties with professionalism. She deserves another term as Superintendent of Schools for Alameda County.

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