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As State Mulls Early Start To New School Year, Local Districts Struggle To Balance Budgets

The San Diego Unified School District headquarters is shown on March 19, 2020.

Photo by Zoë Meyers / inewsource

Above: The San Diego Unified School District headquarters is shown on March 19, 2020.

On the same day that Governor Gavin Newsom announced the possibility of starting the new school year as early as late July, San Diego Unified School District took measures to close a pre-existing budget deficit.

“We recognize there’s been a learning loss because of this disruption,” Newsom said on Tuesday. “We’re concerned about the learning loss even into the summer.”

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

While Newsom talked about the urgency of making up for lost instruction, San Diego Unified is looking to cut $84 million from its next year’s budget, cuts that were necessary even before the pandemic. On Tuesday, the school board approved the elimination of 458 non-teaching positions, most of them were teachers aides.

Emphasizing that these cuts are unrelated to the pandemic, Superintendent Cindy Marten reassured laid-off employees that they would all be rehired before the start of the next school year.

“As always, it’s important to distinguish between people and positions,” Marten said. “We don’t anticipate that any employees will find themselves unemployed as a result of this action.”

The district also decided to rescind previous layoffs of transitional kindergarten teachers, because they are needed during the pandemic.

Among those impacted by the layoffs announced this week are 180 special education aides, who are also known as paraeducators. Under the district’s plan, they would be rehired into a new position that, according to Marten, is part of the “new delivery model” for special education at the district.

The district and the staff union will vote on the creation of the new position by Thursday, SDUSD spokeswoman Maureen Magee said.

The new position has been a polarizing issue for district employees according to Brenda Mitchell, president of the district’s chapter of the California School Employees Association.

“We have received an abundance of emails, texts, and calls in support of this position,” Mitchell said. “But we are also receiving the same amount from members who are already doing the work and feel it is not fair.”

She said many feel that because the newly proposed position pays a higher salary, all eligible employees should be able to apply for it, not just the 180 who received layoff notices.

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