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Parcel Tax Fails, How Will City Schools Manage Cuts?

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Video published November 5, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: School Board President Richard Barrera joins us to talk about the cuts city schools can expect following the defeat of Proposition J.

School Board President Richard Barrera joins us to talk about the cuts city schools can expect following the defeat of Proposition J.

Guest

San Diego Unified School Board President, Richard Barrera

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

VOTERS REJECTED PROPOSITION J, A PARCEL TAX TO RAISE REVENUE FOR SAN DIEGO CITY SCHOOLS. THE MEASURE NEEDS A TWO-THIRDS VOTE TO PASS. IT GARNERED JUST UNDER 50%. THE DISCUSS HOW CITY SCHOOLS WILL MANAGE BUDGET CUTS WITHOUT THE TAX IS THE SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT. WHAT, HOW WILL YOU MANAGE THOSE CUTS? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

WELL, THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS THAT HAVE TO HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW AND WHEN WE ACTUALLY PASS OUR BUDGET IN THE MIDDLE OF JUNE. I WOULD SAY ONE THING, VOTERS DID NOT REJECT PROPOSITION J. A- -

UNDER 50%.

NO, IT WAS OVER 50% AS THE FINAL VOTES ARE COMING IN, I THINK WE END UP WITH A CLEAR MAJORITY. IT'S HUGE BUDGET DEFICIT CONTINUES TO MAKE CUTS TO SCHOOLS. BUT WHEN LOCAL VOTERS AND THE LOCAL COMMUNITY DECIDE THAT THEY'RE GOING TO WILLING TO TAX THEMSELVES TO SUPPORT THE LOCAL SCHOOL, WE HAVE TO CLEAR THIS UNCLEARABLE HURDLE OF A TWO- THIRDS MAJORITY. SO I THINK WE HAVE TO LOOK AT THAT AT THE STATE LEVEL --

YEAH, BUT HONESTLY, THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WILL TAKE YEARS TO ACCOMPLISH.

WELL, SCHOOL BOND MEASURES USED TO REQUIRE TWO-THIRDS VOTE. YOU SAW A NUMBER OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS WITH THE MAJORITY OF VOTERS AGREEING, AND THE THRESHOLD GOT LOWERED AND NOW THEY ARE PASSING. I THINK IT'S SOMETHING WE ARE HEADING TOWARDS WITH PARCEL TAX MEASURES.

BUT GETTING BACK TO, YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE CUTS. TEACHERS? JANITORS? WHERE?

SO, AGAIN, WE HAVE TO GO ABOUT THIS IN A SYSTEM ATTIC WAY. 80% COMES FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA. THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, THE BUDGET THAT LEGISLATURE JUST PASSED AND THE GOVERNOR JUST SIGNED STILL, THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT ARE UNCLEAR ABOUT HOW THAT AFFECTS PUBLIC SCHOOLS. SO WE HAVE TO CLARIFY THAT. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE, IF THERE ARE MID-YEAR CUT AT THAT TIME STATE THAT THERE ARE NOT CUTS TO EDUCATION. AND THE NEW GOVERNOR WITH THE ABILITY TO WORK WITH THE LEGISLATURE, NOT A TWO-THIRDS BUDGET, I'M SAYING ALL THIS BECAUSE WHAT I'M SAYING IS, THERE COULD BE DIFFERENCES IN THE HOLE THAT WE'RE IN THAT ARE MADE BY, YOU KNOW, DECISIONS IN SACRAMENTO. AND WE NEED TO ADVOCATE TO MAKE SURE THAT PUBLIC EDUCATION IS PROTECTED.

MEANWHILE, ARE YOU ESTABLISHING PRIORITIES?

OF COURSE.

WHAT IS THE FIRST PRIORITY ONE, ABSOLUTELY SAVED?

WELL, THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY TO ME IS TO KEEP THE CLASS SIZES AS LOW AS POSSIBLE AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE YOUNGER KIDS. YOU KNOW, WE'VE GOT KIDS THAT COME INTO SCHOOL WHEN THEY'RE 5 YEARS OLE, WHO ARE ALREADY BEHIND. YOU MIGHT HAVE, SAY THE VOCABULARY, A THIRD OF THE WORDS THAT, YOU KNOW, KIDS IN A DIFFERENT PART OF TOWN MIGHT HAVE WHEN THEY COME INTO SCHOOL. THOSE KIDS CAN CATCH UP QUICKLY. AND BE ON COURSE AND READY TO GO BY THE TIME THEY'RE IN THIRD GRADE, BUT IF THE CLASSES ARE TOO BIG, THEY GET LEFT BEHIND. AND SO I BELIEVE THAT OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY FOR THE SCHOOLS, FOR ALL OF THE SCHOOLS IS TO KEEP CLASS SIZES LOW.

THEN YOU CAN'T LAY-OFF TEACHERS IF YOU'RE GOING TO KEEP CLASS SIZES THE SAME.

WELL, THERE ARE PROBABLY GOING TO HAVE TO BE TEACHER LAY- OFFS. I DON'T SEE HOW THAT'S AVOIDABLE. BUT WHERE WE HAVE TO MAKE A PRIORITY IS KEEPING THE CLASS SIZES AS LOW AS POSSIBLE WITH THE YOUNGER GRADES. AND YOU KNOW, BUT THE REALITY IS, I MEAN, WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR A LONGTIME NOW AND BEEN VERY CLEAR AND OPEN WITH PEOPLE, THERE WILL BE CUTS. THERE'S NO WAY TO AVOID THAT. WE'VE HAD $300 MILLION CUT FROM THE BUDGE NET THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. WE HAVE DONE EVERYTHING THAT WE CAN POSSIBLY DO TO KEEP THOSE CUTS AWAY FROM THE KIDS. AND NOW WE'RE FACING WHAT LOOKS LIKE TODAY ANOTHER $120 MILLION IN CUTS. AND THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME THINGS THAT ARE GOING TO HURT KIDS.

VERY QUICKLY, SAN DIEGO FOR GREAT SCHOOLS THERE. IS A GROUP OF COMMUNITY LEADERS, BUSINESS LEADER, THEY WANT TO BRING IN FOUR APPOINTED SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS ON TOP OF THE ELECTED ONES. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?

I THINK IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SOLVING THE BUDGET CRISIS OR IMPROVING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.

WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH?

POLITICS AND POWER FRANKLY. AND IT'S NOT THE CONVERSATION THAT WE NEED TO BE HAVING AS A COMMUNITY RIGHT NOW. SAN DIEGO UNIFIED OUR SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN IMPROVING STEADILY OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS. WE ARE NOW THE NUMBER ONE LARGE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THE STATE IN TERMS OF LITERACY. AT THE TOP IN MATH AND SCIENCE. WE NEED TO KEEP OUR EYE ON IMPROVING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT, SOLVING THE BUDGET CRISIS, NOT GETTING DRAGGED BACK INTO POLITICS.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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