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San Diego Unified Struggles With Budget Cuts

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WqRpjDqdSk

Video published September 24, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: The state budget crisis is impacting schools all over California. And now, dire warnings of a $140 million deficit in the San Diego Unified School District has spawned a long list of possible cuts.

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.

THE STATE BUDGET CRISIS IS IMPACTING SCHOOLS AROUND CALIFORNIA AND DIRE WARNINGS OF $140 MILLION DEFICITS IN THE SAN DIEGO UNIFIED DISTRICTS SPAWNED LONG LIST OF POSSIBLE CUTS. THIS COMES WHEN VOTERS ARE DECIDING WHETHER TO TAX THEMSELVES TO REDUCE THE DEFICIT AND AVOID SOME CUTS. WITH ME TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IS AHEAD IS ANDREW DONAHUE, EDITOR OF VOICEOFSAN DIEGO.ORG. WELCOME.

THANK YOU.

WHAT'S ON THE TABLE NOW?

THEY'RE TRYING TO CUT $141 MILLION. THAT'S AN ESTIMATE. THAT'S OUT OF A POOL OF ABOUT $700 MILLION. THEY'RE CUTTING INTO THINGS. KINDERGARTEN WOULD BE A HALF DAY. TEN SCHOOLS WITH LOWER ENROLLMENT WOULD BE CLOSED. FIRST-GRADE CLASSES WOULD GO FROM 24 STUDENTS TO 29. SO THOSE SORT OF THINGS.

THIS IS THE FIFTH YEAR OF CUTS. HOW ARE THESE CUTS AFFECTING THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN SAN DIEGO'S LARGEST SCHOOL DISTRICT?

SO FAR, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS FOUND WAY, DESPITE GOING THROUGH THESE EXERCISES, EVERY YEAR, TO REALLY BUFFER THE ACTUAL CLASSROOM FOR MANY OF THESE CUTSES. IN PAST THEY FOUND WAYS TO DO ATTRITION OR GIVE BONUS TO SOME OLDER EMPLOYEES SO THEY LEAVE SOONER SO I THINK THIS IS THE YEAR WE SEE, CAN THEY CONTINUE TO FIND CREATIVE, SMALLER CUT THAT DON'T IMPACT THE CLASSROOM OR IS THIS THE YEAR WE START TO SEE A LOT MORE IMPACT NOW?

YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT $141 MILLION, THAT'S MORE THAN 10% OF THEIR ENTIRE BUDGET. AND THEN IN THE PAST WE HAVE HEARD ABOUT TEACHER LAYOFFS THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN. IS THIS THE YEAR THAT IT WILL HAPPEN?

I THINK THAT'S WHAT I'M WAITING TO SEE. WE HAVE TO SEE IF THIS IS THE YEAR THESE THINGS ACTUALLY COME TO FRUITION. THESE ESTIMATES COME OUT NOW AND ANOTHER ONE COMES OUT LATER IN THE YEAR BUT THEY MAKE THESE DECISIONS NEXT SUMMER SO A LOT OF THINGS COULD CHANGE.

ONE THING THAT COULD CHANGE IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN ON THE BALLOT IN NOVEMBER. NOVEMBER 2 ING FROM ARE PROPOSITION J WOULD CREATE A PARCEL TAX AND EVERYONE THAT LIVES IN A HOUSE OR APARTMENT OR OWNS THOSE PROPERTIES WOULD PAY. WHAT IS THIS SET UP TO DO?

BASICALLY JUST TO GIVE AN INFUSION OF MONEY TO THE SCHOOL DISTRICT. I THINK THEY'RE ESTIMATING $50 MILLION A YEAR, WHICH IS SOMETHING THAT, WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE FACE OF THE CUTS, THEY COULD PROBABLY USE. BUT THEN AGAIN, WHEN WE LOOK AT THE MASSIVE TOTALITY OF THE CUTS, $50 MILLION IS A DROP IN THE BUCKET.

IT IS. IT WOULD TAKE A BIG CHANGE IN THE ECONOMY, I GUESS, IN ORDER TO CHANGE WHAT THE SCHOOLS ARE FACING.

IT WOULD AND THEN AGAIN, THIS IS ONLY A FIVE-YEAR TAX INCREASE LIKE THE CITY'S PROP D. AGAIN, THESE ARE SORT OF TEMPORARY CHANGES. THE WHOLE FUNDING STRUCTURE HAS CHANGE IN THE LAST FEW YEARS AND THERE'S NO SIGNS THAT WILL CHANGE ANY TIME IN THE FUTURE.

BUT THERE MIGHT BE A SIGN THE VOTERS ARE READY TO PASS A PROPOSITION LIKE THIS. HOWEVER, IT REQUIRES 2/3 OF THE VOTERS TO REALLY PASS.

AND THOSE ARE TOUGH PROPOSITIONS. THE 2/3 TAX INCREASES ALWAYS FACE A HUGE, HUGE STRUGGLE. SO I THINK THAT AND THE FACT THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO HAS A TAX INCREASE ON THE BALLOT AT THE SAME TIME ARE GOING TO COMBINE TO CREATE SOME STRUGGLES BUT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE HOW IT SHAKES OUT.

LET'S THINK ABOUT IT A BIT. THE ECONOMY MAY NOT RECOVER FOR ANOTHER THREE, FOUR, MAYBE FIVE YEARS. WITH THE ECONOMY SLOW, PEOPLE AREN'T BUYING AS MUCH. SO SALES THEMSELVES MAY DECREASE. SO EVEN IF YOU HAVE A PROPOSITION J, IT'S RELIANT TO A CERTAIN EXTENT ON THE ABILITY OF PEOPLE TO, YOU KNOW, MOVE AHEAD WITH THEIR PURCHASES AND PROGRAMS BUY HOMES, BUY APARTMENTS, AND I'M WONDERING HOW THE ECONOMY WILL AFFECT THAT.

SURE FOR D FOR THE CITY, THAT'S THE SALES TAX. THAT WOULD OBVIOUSLY IMPACT PEOPLE AND IS A REGRESSIVE TAX SO IT HURTS POORER PEOPLE MORE THAN RICHER PEOPLE. PROP J WILL JUST BE MORE OF AN OVERALL PROBLEM WHEN YOU HAVE A LOT OF HOMEOWNERS WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO JUST MAKE THE MORTGAGE, JUST TO THROW EVEN -- THINKING OF THROWING AN EXTRA $100 ON THERE WILL BE TOUGH FOR ANY FAMILY NOW.

I'M WONDERING IF THERE'S ANY ORGANIZED OPPOSITION AGAINST PROPOSITION J.

YES, THE TAXPAYERS' ASSOCIATION. YOU HAVE SORT OF, I THINK, THE REPUBLICAN SORT OF THE REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT SO THE TYPICAL TAX FIGHTERS ARE PUSHING AGAINST THE SAYING WE'RE THROWING MORE MONEY INTO SCHOOLS AND GET WORSE RESULTSES THAN EVER SO WE SHOULDN'T JUST THROW MONEY AT THE PROBLEM.

FINALLY I ASSUME SCHOOL PERSONNEL, SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT, IS IN FAVOR -- IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THESE CUTS AND THE ELECTION?

NO. THEY ALWAYS GET THESE ESTIMATES ABOUT THESE THIS TIME. IT'S CONVENIENT AND CERTAINLY HELPS THEIR CAUSE WHEN THEY'RE MAKING THESE SORT OF DIRE WARNINGS. THIS IS SORT OF PART OF THE PROCESS. THIS THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU.

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