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A Friday hearing at Oakland City Hall on state takeovers

Randolph Ward, as state administrator in 2004UPDATE: Sandre Swanson’s office says they’ve just learned that West Contra Costa Unified has cut its last check to the state, which means they — like Emery Unified — would be free from state receivership.

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Only eight California school districts have undergone state financial takeovers in the last 20 years after requesting large emergency loans from the state. Half of them have been from the Bay Area.

At 1 p.m. Friday afternoon, the State Assembly’s Select Committee on State School Financial Takeovers convenes a public hearing at Oakland City Hall to learn more about how the Emery, Oakland, Vallejo City, and West Contra Costa school districts fared (or have fared) in the process. The state lawmakers will be trying to determine what could have been done to prevent the fiscal crises — or to accelerate districts’ financial recoveries afterward.

Emery Unified emerged from state control last summer after making its last loan repayment. The other three Bay Area districts are still repaying those loans and have a state-appointed trustee with veto power over their expenditures.

The select committee is chaired by Assemblymember Sandre Swanson (D-Alameda), who became involved years ago in local efforts to help the Oakland school district stabilize and exit state receivership.

From 2003 until July 2009, when Oakland Superintendent Tony Smith came on board, a series of state administrators held the governing power. During most of that time, the elected school board was merely advisory. As of July, OUSD had repaid almost $42 million in principal and interest — and still had a balance of $69 million.

FRIDAY’S HEARING is scheduled to run until 5 p.m. in the Oakland City Council chambers. County superintendents, teachers, school board members and parents will testify about the effectiveness of the financial takeover system, which is triggered when a district receives an emergency loan from the state.

Public comment will be taken toward the end of the hearing, before the committee members make their final comments. What message would you convey?

The committee plans to hold a similar hearing in King City on March 23 and in Los Angeles on April 20, according to Swanson’s office.

You can find the eight California school districts that have undergone financial takeovers since 1991, their loan balances and other information by going to this link and downloading the Word document at the bottom of the page.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.