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San Diego Unified Proposal Would Eliminate Hundreds Of Positions, Reduce Work Year To Balance Budget

The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified Scho...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified School District is shown in this photo, March 24, 2016.

District officials say the plan to cut $124 million from the budget will not impact class sizes or instruction time.

San Diego Unified Proposal Would Eliminate Hundreds Of Positions, Reduce Work Year To Balance Budget

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Megan Burks
, education reporter, KPBS

The San Diego Unified School Board is scheduled Tuesday to hear the first reading of a plan to cut $124 million from the district's budget.

The plan calls for the elimination of 833 positions and a reduced work year. The cuts would not impact class sizes or the amount of instructional time for students, according to district documents.

"Let me reassure you that funding is secure through the end of this academic year," Superintendent Cindy Marten said in an email to parents Monday. "We have also committed that any budget solutions will not increase our core class sizes. We believe students learn best in small classes, and our class sizes are some of the lowest in the state. Students will also continue to have access to our amazing International Baccalaureate, dual-language, arts and other vital programs that help them develop as complete individuals."

The reduced work year represents more than $18.6 million in savings, including a $15,400 pay cut for Superintendent Cindy Marten and a $972 pay cut for each board member.

The plan would also significantly scale back professional development and eliminate or reduce the ranks of teachers who fill in to provide preparation time for elementary school teachers and provide other support throughout the day. That program represents a $16.4 million cut, according to district documents.

Also taking a big hit is facilities maintenance, representing about $12.7 million in custodial, landscaping and building maintenance work.

For certificated employees who work directly with students, cuts include 160 positions in special education and 94 in physical education. Several department heads within the central office would also be laid off.

Such layoffs, as well as the reduced work year, are subject to negotiations with teacher and staff unions. The district also plans to offer an early-retirement program to reduce its ranks. District spokesman Andrew Sharp said there are 1,500 employees who would be eligible for the so-called "golden handshake."

The board will vote Feb. 28 on whether to proceed with layoff notices in March.

Some of those notices could be rescinded if Governor Jerry Brown's May budget revision is more optimistic than his first pass in January. A Legislative Analyst's Office report on Brown's education budget said he could — and should — spend more.

But the district's financial outlook could also get worse, depending on shifts in spending priorities under new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and whether Brown takes even more spending precautions amid uncertainty at the federal level.

Much of the budget shortfall is due to declining enrollment, which means less state funding, and rising pension costs.

Already, the district is projecting a $52.5 million shortfall in fiscal year 2018.

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