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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Roundtable On SDUSD: Budget, Layoffs, Graduation Rate, Election Process, Homeless Students

Audio

Education Issues: Budget, Graduation Rate, Board Elections, Homeless Students

PANEL

Megan Burks, education reporter, KPBS News

Mario Koran, education reporter, Voice of San Diego

Megan Wood, reporter, iNewsource

SD UNIFIED'S BUDGET PROBLEM

The Story

The San Diego Unified School District began this year's budgeting process already in the hole — a $124 million deficit-sized hole.

So the Board of Trustees began a familiar process: issuing hundreds of you-are-likely-to-be-laid off notices to administrators, support personnel and teachers. Last hired, first fired.

Cutting costs this way inevitably falls hardest on schools in poor neighborhoods.

The Conversation

—Mass quantities of pink slips are issued almost annually for San Diego Unified personnel. Why does this keep happening? What are the structural problems causing the deficit?

—What kind of support personnel will be cut? Nurses? Librarians?

—Why is it that schools in poorer neighborhood sustain the biggest loss of personnel?

—What does the San Diego Education Association want from the budgeting process?

—What about closing under-enrolled schools to save money?

Related: As San Diego Unified Prepares To Cut 977 Positions, Teachers' Union Prepares For New Contract

Related: Why District Layoffs Hit Poor Schools the Hardest

SDUSD'S AMAZING GRADUATION RATE

The Story

Big news for San Diego Unified and its superintendent, Cindy Marten: A whopping 91.2 percent of high school seniors graduated in 2016. That's a record for the district and the highest rate in the state.

But hold off on the Champagne.

To get to this number, the district re-vamped some high school courses, allowed some students to take tests instead of the required courses, allowed students to pass required courses with Ds and lost a large number of low-performing students to charters.

The Conversation

—Wasn't it just a few years ago that many district students didn't have access to college-prep courses? What happened?

—What percentage of students passed required courses with Cs or better?

—Why did SDUSD lose so many high school students to charter schools, and how did this affect the graduation rate?

Related: San Diego Unified's Jaw-Dropping Grad Rate Is Now Official. Here's How it Got Here.

HOMELESS STUDENTS MAY LOSE FEDERAL FUNDING

The Story

California is home to 20 percent of the nation’s homeless students. In San Diego, 22,000 homeless students were enrolled in 53 county school districts in 2013-2014.

The federal funding available to help homeless students navigate the hurdles in the way of an education is very small: just $70 million for the U.S. in 2016. Four San Diego districts received a total of $720,000. Now even that drop-in-the-bucket may dry up. Donald Trump's budget blueprint asks for $9.2 billion in cuts to the federal education budget.

The Conversation

—How many ways can a student be classified as homeless?

—Where do federal funds for homeless students come from?

—What services are districts required to provide to help these students?

—Why didn't all San Diego County districts apply for available funds?

—How can districts replace the funds they may lose?

Related: The challenge of counting San Diego County homeless students: What is a home?

Related: Trump's proposed budget cuts worry advocates for homeless students

PROPOSAL TO CHANGE SDUSD BOARD ELECTION PROCESS

The Story

There are no term limits for trustees of the San Diego Unified School District.

School Board President Richard Barrera was first elected in 2008 and re-elected to three four-year terms. He received with close to 100 percent of the vote each time and is arguably the most powerful school board member SDUSD has ever had, shaping both policy and personnel.

A new proposal would bring SDUSD board elections in line with the way elections for city council, state Legislature, and Congress are held, making it impossible for a candidate to win outright.

The Conversation

—Who's for and against these proposed changes?

—Why is it that SDUSD board members run without opposition?

—How would these changes affect the board's make-up?

Related: The Man Who Shaped the Workers' Revolution at San Diego Unified

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