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Layoff Talks Back As S.D. Unified’s Budget Gap Widens

San Diego Unified School Superintendent Terry Grier is sounding the alarm to school workers and parents. He says the state's budget disaster will debilitate local schools. That's why he's calling for an emergency public meeting to talk about the situation Tuesday morning.

California's money problems. The recession. The rejection of last week's ballot measures. All of those factors has come at an increasing cost to the San Diego Unified School District.

Grier says the district's state funding shortfall has increased by $30 million to now $175 million for this and next school year.

The district has been considering two options. One involves cutting pay and benefits for teachers. The other would cut essential student programs and services.

But Grier says the district now no longer has choices.

"There are no good choices left to make," Grier said in a recorded online statement. "The board will need to consider raising class sizes at all grade levels, cutting special programs. They'll also revisit the budget implications of closing small schools. And they may need to ask our employees to take cuts in benefits and compensation."

Grier is expected to elaborate on the district's money problems at a special budget workshop he scheduled for Tuesday at 8 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

San Diego Unified is one of the only large urban school districts in California that has not issued teacher layoffs notices to balance its budget.

Three of the five school board members, backed by the teachers union, took a hard stance against putting teaching jobs at risk and voted against sending notices to teachers earlier in the year. As a result, district officials say they face the prospect of reducing payroll buy cutting even more school support staff.

Trustee Katherine Nakamura says if layoffs are not back on the table, the district could face a state takeover.

"We are like the Exxon Valdez," Nakamura said. "When we get hit, we spill a lot of oil very, very fast. We are second largest district in California. The state of California can't afford to look the other way and say you are too big to fail. They'll have to step in."

Nakamura has been criticized in the past for supporting layoffs. But she maintains the board majority has painted itself into a corner by not making the tough decisions.

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