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Wheatland High District on state financial watch list

SACRAMENTO — A Yuba County school district wound up on the state Department of Education 's financial watch list on Thursday.

The agency said the Wheatland Union High School District was one of 120 districts in the state that received a qualified certification.

That rating is assigned when the district may not meet its financial obligations for the current or two subsequent fiscal years. This certification allows the county Office of Education to provide assistance.

Wheatland Union has a $6.1 million budget, according to the Department of Education, and had about 750 students in the 2010-11 school year.

The state's first interim status report for fiscal year 2011-12 indicated that 127 districts are either in negative or qualified financial status, 17 more than at this point last year. Combined, nearly 2 million students attend school in a district with serious financial challenges.

"The financial emergency facing our schools remains both wide and deep," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. "The deep cuts made to school funding — and looming uncertainties about the future — are driving school districts to the brink of insolvency. Plain and simple, our schools need new revenues to get back on solid financial ground."

The Department of Education semiannually receives interim status reports on the financial status of the state's 1,037 local educational agencies, comprised of school districts, county offices of education and joint powers agencies.

The certifications are classified as positive, qualified, or negative. The new report put seven districts in negative certification and 120 as qualified.

According to the state, the qualified certification means that "based upon current projections, the local educational agency may not meet its financial obligations for fiscal year 2011-12, 2012-13, or 2013-14."

A negative certification — the most serious of the classifications — is assigned when a district will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current year or for the subsequent fiscal year.

The number of districts in qualified or negative status declined slightly from last June when the second interim status report for FY 2010-11 was issued, but overall remain at historic highs. As late as 2006-07, only 22 districts were in negative or qualified status at any time during the fiscal year.

The department cautioned that since the interim status reports are "snapshots in time," the actual financial status of districts on the list "may have changed since these certifications were collected."

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