Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Budget cuts continue to bleed programs in the San Diego Unified School District. We'll talk about about teacher layoffs and proposed cuts to transportation.
Despite a teacher protest before the San Diego Unified school district trustees last night, board members voted to send out more than 700 final layoff notices. It's part of the painful process of cutting 115 million dollars from the city schools budget. But even with the vote on teacher layoffs and plans to slash school busing, some trustees remain optimistic that the state cuts won't be as bad as expected.
Kyla Calvert, KPBS Education Reporter
CAVANAUGH: Despite a teacher protest before the San Diego unified school district trustees last night, board members voted to send out more than 700 final layoff notices of it's part of the painful process of cutting a hundred and 15 million dollars from the city's school budget. But even with the vote on teacher layoffs and plans to slash school bussing, some trustees remain optimistic that the state cuts on or about as bad as expected of KPBS education reporter Kyla Calvert joins me, good morning, Kyla.
CALVERT: Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Now, does the fact that San Diego unified is sending layoff notices to more than 700 teachers, and about twice as many other employees, does that mean that all those people will be laid off.
CALVERT: Yes. These are the final notices of the pink slips that have been issued since March, those were sort of warnings issue that oh, you could be getting laid off thea the end of this school year. But the noirs that were approved last night are the real deal. These people are lose their jobs at the end of the school year.
CAVANAUGH: They're not coming back in September?
CALVERT: They're not. I mean, there's a lot of budget wrangling going on between now and September. So that's sort of the thing every year, that you get on the end of the school year, and the board has to have a budget for the following school year, but there are still a lot of details to be worked out at the stay level.
CAVANAUGH: So why is the board taking this step.
CALVERT: There's a state deadline for May†15th to send out these final notices of so they really just don't have a choice at this point.
CAVANAUGH: So despite -- I remember despite cuts in years past, and they were very deep cuts, San Diego unified managed to avoid teacher layoffs. They apparently cannot do that again this year. About is this a chance they still may be able to avoid it?
CALVERT: I -- you know, I doubt that they'll be able to recall all of the notices that they send out, that they'll be sending out. But board president Richard Barrera did actually float a plan that would have reduced the amount of final notices by about 200 positions based on, you know, what the district has seen happen in the last, you know, over the last couple of years. And you know here's what he had to say about that.
NEW SPEAKER: We know that every year there are a number of teachers who retire there are a number of teachers who might go out on leave, maybe they're gonna have a baby. We know that there are a number of teachers who might, you know, have to move out of San Diego and go some place else, and when that happens, we know that there are jobs that open up. Even if we don't have additional money to add additional positions.
CALVERT: So basically, he wanted to rescind about 200 notices, and say, well, attrition will take care of these.
CALVERT: Because the board is required to pass a balanced budget that his suggestion did not get the board's approval. Another trustee, Sheila Jackson, actually amended his motion, and wanted to rescind all of the nonteaching layoffs, which would have put the School Board at about $50†million over budget, and actually, you know, at that point, if they are not balancing the budget, the county can come in and remove all of them.
CALVERT: So it was sort of -- it was a very zany evening at the School Board, if such a thing exists 678 so --
CAVANAUGH: Now, even though as you're telling us, the school has to present this budget by a certain time, it's mandated, basically, to present its budget, it still doesn't know exactly how much it's gonna be getting from the state; is that right?
CALVERT: That's right. You know, Governor Brown is expected to release his May revise on the sixteenth. And the -- and trustee John Lee Evans was saying it takes about a week after that for the district to sort of sort through the numbers and figure out what that means for city schools. And then they have two weeks from that point, until June†15th to -- that's when the district has to present its final budget for a first reading. And then they have two weeks for the board to actually vote on that final budget.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I know all of this is very complicated, but during that time they still have [CHECK AUDIO] don't necessarily mean they're final, do they?
CALVERT: They could recall some of the, you know, some of those positions.
CALVERT: About it -- and sort of that -- that mooshiness around the final numbers was, I think, a source of a lot of the zaniness last night. And Scott Barnett, another one of the trustees, really summed up that frustration, I think, that the trustees were feeling.
NEW SPEAKER: We don't have control over the state deadlines to issue pink slips of we don't have control over the seniority based layoffs of we don't have control over the fact that the law requires us to approve a primary and second interim budget months before we even know how much money we're gonna have.
CAVANAUGH: He sounds frustrated. What other measures is the board taking to cut spending?
CALVERT: Well, you know, at a special meeting yesterday morning, they directed staff to drop a plan that would phase out all of the districts' nonmandatory bussing over the next years. So it would start in the fall, and you know, wrap up in 2013.
CAVANAUGH: Was there a lot -- was the board contentious over this? Or was there a [CHECK AUDIO] agreement?
CALVERT: I think this is an issue that -- it's not -- it's certainly -- the measures that they're considering now would save about $3.1†million for the district. So while it certainly doesn't come anywhere in terms of scope where the teacher layoffs come in, I mean, and people are very emotional about teacher and other layoffs, bussing is also sort of a very emotional issue for a lot of parents, and for the people. And for the members on the board. So -- 'cause it involves -- in San Diego, parents can sign up their students or can enroll students in schools other than their neighborhood school of it's a school choice. And that's an option that parents are very attached to. In San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: Yes. Of and so how many students does San Diego unified bus now.
CALVERT: This year, they bussed about 17000, just over 17000 students. Earlier this -- since January, earlier this year, they have approved cuts that would reduce -- that will reduce that number by about 4000 students next year. And then phasing out this nonmandatory bussing would reduce it by another 6000.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us a little bit about the mandatory bussing. There's some bussing that the school district, unified, School Board can't cut, right?
CALVERT: Right. The federal government requires that school districts bus some special education students, and then under no child left behind, if your neighborhood school is deemed as failing, the parents have the option to enroll their students in other schools. And so the federal government mandates that those students whose neighborhood schools are failing under no child left behind be given bussing services.
CAVANAUGH: I don't think everybody who does not have a child in the San Diego unified school district understands this bussing thing. Because we got a comment on our website underneath your story about this bussing cut about why people -- why the district is in the business of bussing kids anyway. Why can't they just go to neighborhood schools? Why can't their parents drive them? Is this a long standing kind of a district policy of having people, if the parents choose, have their children bussed to another location.
CALVERT: Well, I was gonna say, it goes back to that choice, that school choice option. And the argument is sort of that that provides equity across the school district. Not all schools perform equally. And so if you are tied to going to your neighborhood school, that may tie you sending to your children to a school that does not perform as well as other schools in the city. And so I think that that is -- that is where, sort of, the emotion comes in. And --
CAVANAUGH: It feels like it's not fair anymore.
CAVANAUGH: For some people. What does this do to schools? How are they affected by cutting bussing services?
CALVERT: Well, if they do go ahead with cutting all the mandatory bussing, about 11 schools would be over capacity. And in the documents that were presented to the board by the staff, several of those schools would have a very hard time accommodating, you know, finding the room, making adjustments to seat all those students. If it -- if it is done over two years, you know, that would sort of ease that transition. But then another three-dozen schools would be at -- below 60†percent of the capacity. That they have and a school like mission bay high school, something like three quarters of those students are bussed there. So you would have this building that was 25†percent full, so --
CAVANAUGH: You try to solve one problem, you create another. Kyle ark thank you so much.
CALVERT: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter Kyla Calvert. If you'd like to comment, on line, there's, KPBS.org/These Days. Coming up, San Diego's police chief apologizes. That's as These Days continues here on KPBS.