Barrera Says San Diego Unified Might Take A Run At 2018 Funding Measure
One message at Tuesday night’s State of the District Address: San Diego Unified is strong, but could be stronger with voter support.
Board President Richard Barrera told KPBS the district is actively exploring whether to put a school funding measure on the 2018 local ballot. He said it would not be a bond nor a parcel tax that needs a two-thirds majority vote. Barrera said a recent court decision that could let citizens’ initiatives pass with a simple majority might open up some options for the district.
Barrera said he believes San Diegans have an appetite for such an initiative, pointing to a 2010 schools measure that received 51 percent approval — too low to pass at the time.
At Tuesday’s event, Barrera and Superintendent Cindy Marten said they have demonstrated their teachers and staff have the talent and know-how to produce students and schools worthy of recognition. Added revenue would allow them to put their efforts into overdrive and close the district’s achievement gap, Barrera said.
“We've seen rising graduation rates, we've seen declining suspension and expulsion rates, we've seen increasing numbers of students become bilingual in our district, but we continue to see an achievement gap that does not need to exist because we know what the strategies are," Barrera said. He added district research puts the price tag to bring those strategies to scale at an additional $3,500 per student.
"That means every opportunity for increased revenue to provide the support that our schools need, we need to come together as a community and fight for,” he said.
California is 46th in the nation for school spending. While state spending has picked up, rising pension costs and falling enrollment forced the district this year to cut $124 million from its budget. The district projects it will need to cut another $52.5 million in the next budget.
“We do not have all the state funding our students deserve,” Marten said in her speech. “But, my friends, we are rich with talented, dedicated teachers and staff, who put service to children above all else. Thanks to all of you, the state of our district is strong.”
Marten also highlighted gains in both test scores and the graduation rate. And she said the district is spending an average of $1 million a day to upgrade facilities.
Tuesday’s appeal will not be the last if the district moves forward with a ballot initiative. Some have criticized the district for its fiscal management. And layoffs of support staff integral to school site operations, blunders like the invalidation of hundreds of SAT scores at Scripps Ranch High School and battles with the press and parents over transparency have cast a shadow over the district’s meaningful wins.