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School Board Votes To Avoid Employee Layoffs Despite $90 Million Deficit

Evening Edition

Above: John Lee Evans, the president of the San Diego Unified School District's Board of Education, talks to KPBS about the district's budget, which avoids employee layoffs.

Aired 1/23/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

John Lee Evans, President, Board of Education San Diego Unified School District

Bill Freeman, President, San Diego Education Association

Transcript

The San Diego Unified School District board began its annual budget process today with a 4-0 vote to avoid employee layoffs when offsetting a nearly $90 million deficit projected for the 2013-14 academic year, based on figures from Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed state budget.

Aired 1/23/13 on KPBS News.

The San Diego Unified School District board began its annual budget process today with a 4-0 vote to avoid employee layoffs when offsetting a nearly $90 million deficit projected for the 2013-14 academic year, based on figures from Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed state budget.

The governor has proposed to increase funding for K-12 education, community colleges and higher education, and tax increases included in the passage of Proposition 30 took pressure off the state to further cut costs, according to San Diego Unified's chief financial officer, Stanley Dobbs.

SDUSD Superintendent Bill Kowba said in the face of year after year of relentless budget cuts, the district had cut as much as possible to safeguard the staff needed to fulfill core educational missions, although personnel costs had grown to more than 92 percent of the annual general fund costs.

"The spiraling and prolonged national and state economic crisis has been translated into the most draconian measures applied to K-12 education in decades, some would say since the great depression of the 1930s,'' Kowba said.

The district headed into the current school year facing a $120 million shortfall, but an agreement to defer raises and impose furlough days spared about 1,300 jobs.

Under a traditional deficit approach, the $88.2 million shortfall projected for the next school year would mean layoffs for about the equivalent of 1,000 full-time employees, but Dobbs said that could be partially offset by property sales, more district facilities being leased or rented and increased efficiencies in special education.

The district could also implement a hiring freeze and eliminate some of the about 600 positions vacated annually through attrition, in line with declining enrollment, although that could result in employee credentials being mismatched, according to Dobbs.

Bill Freeman, president of the San Diego Education Association representing the district's teachers, was in favor of the approach and said layoffs were disruptive to students' educational opportunities and the threat of layoffs had led to teachers leaving voluntarily.

"It's time for us to stop the disruption of our kids' education and to get back on track of educating our kids -- standing up for our kids' rights,'' Freeman said.

But board president John Lee Evans said attrition wouldn't be without it's own challenges.

“We’re going to certainly have a lot of flexibility from our unions and other groups to really help us with that because what we’re going to do is put the people where they’re – move people around – and put them where they’re most strategically needed,” he said.

SDUSD staffers were directed to craft a back-up plan if the state does not provide the amount of expected funding from Proposition 30 tax increases.

If the state comes through with the increased funding, some deferred raises or furlough days could be restored, Dobbs said.

The board also directed staff to use any surpluses from property sales to fund investments that yield ongoing savings, such as converting year-round schools to traditional campuses.

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