San Diego Unfied Approves More Than 1,500 Layoff Notices
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night adopted the decision of an administrative law judge that upheld 1,534 layoff notices sent to employees, despite about two dozen parents, students and staff who spoke out against the cuts.
Notices were issued to 1,656 employees in March to help close a $122 million budget gap for the next school year. Some were part-time employees, so the layoff list was comprised of the equivalent of 1,628 full-time positions who would be laid off at the end of this school year.
About 1,500 of the workers appealed their inclusion on the list. Administrative Law Judge Roy Hewitt ruled that school districts are given "wide discretion" in budget setting and layoff notices.
"We do not have enough money to pay all of our employees next year," board President John Lee Evans said.
Jennifer Ismerio, a mother of four, said the Johnson Elementary School teacher responsible for getting her child with Asperger's syndrome from not writing a single word, not even his name, to writing complete paragraphs was on the layoff list.
"How can kids be expected to learn in crowded classrooms," Ismerio asked the board. "How can these kids learn with so much transition and loss of staff?"
Ismerio said if the layoffs were approved, she would home school her children.
Superintendent Bill Kowba said revenues had declined for the past five years and 90 percent of the district's expenditures went for employee salaries and benefits. Kowba said with the state's deficit growing from the originally projected $9 billion to $16 billion the school district could face even deeper cuts.
The district is among the 11 in San Diego County that submitted reports stating they may not be able to meet their financial obligations over the next two years, Kowba said.
"We've reached a point where there is a new norm where there are no options after a series of years of reductions, where there are debilitating declining reserves on hand and quickly disappearing," Kowba said.
"This new norm has placed us in a situation where we now talk about staffing reductions in the hundreds."
Kowba said the only positive revenue scenario was if voters approve the tax-increasing initiatives on the November ballot. However the district may not see any new funds until the end of the next academic year.
The board affirmed the judge's decision 4-1, but directed Kowba and his staff recall a laid off employee when a budgeted position becomes available.
The board also adopted a resolution tonight that stated the district would adopt a balanced budget with required reserves and would not seek an emergency loan from the state.
Evans said the resolution was brought about to ensure both the public and Wall Street the district was not going to go into debt to the state.
"We have consistently maintained the position that we will balance our budget and will maintain local control over our school district," Evans said.
Board Vice President Scott Barnett, who cast the dissenting vote, said although the resolution stated not making cuts would cause the board to lose control of the district and lead to further deterioration of the educational program, eliminating 1,600 positions would do just that.
Barnett recently said the district was insolvent and should rescind all the layoff notices issued which would prompt a state takeover and strip the board and superintendent of their power.
"The difference is whether 1,600 of you all are gone or six of us are gone," Barnett said.