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San Diego Unified At Edge of Budget Cliff, Again

Aired 10/12/11 on KPBS News.

Millions restored to San Diego city schools as part of the final state budget are in jeopardy. Lagging state revenues are likely to trigger cuts to K-12 education across the state.

Young students raise their hands in a classroom.
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Above: Young students raise their hands in a classroom.

California’s revenues are $705.5 million behind projections that the state's final budget was based on. If they don’t pick up by year’s end, San Diego Unified will face a mid-year budget cut of $30 million -- the amount the state's final budget restored to the district in June.

District Superintendent Bill Kowba told Board of Education trustees Tuesday night that the consequences of a seventh year of state cuts could be dire for the district.

“Barely one month after school has opened we are at the edge of the cliff, looking over and down at insolvency. We are facing the reality of mid-year budget cuts that could be the starting point on the road to insolvency and state take over,” he said.

If mid-year cuts are triggered, district officials plan to spend remaining reserve funds, sell district property and layoff about 60 full-time equivalent non-teaching staff.

Spending district reserves could leave a budget gap for the 2012-13 school year of up to $118 million, according to Kowba's presentation to the board.

If the district was unable to close that funding gap, it would be vulnerable to takeover by the state. Trustees made the point that once the state takes over a school district, the kinds of cost-cutting measures San Diegans are already upset about -- staff layoffs and discussion of closing up to 10 schools -- would likely become more aggressive.

Board president Richard Barrera said legislators should let voters decide whether to raise taxes on corporations and the state's wealthiest residents. That way, the district could focus on improving student achievement and recognizing successes.

“Not year after year after year about how we’re about to go off a cliff," he said. "Please get in touch with your legislators and especially those members of the Republican caucus that have made a sacred pledge, not to our kids, but to powerful special interests.”

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