Skip to main content

ALERT: KPBS 89.5FM is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in a temporary signal outage. Click here to listen on our radio stream.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

With Grim Projections In Revised State Budget, Local School Officials Call For Federal Help

The outside of the San Diego Unified School District Education Center is show...

Photo by Megan Wood / inewsource

Above: The outside of the San Diego Unified School District Education Center is shown on May 8, 2018.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised budget projects nearly $19 billion in cuts to education funding. San Diego Unified leaders say their plan for reopening hinges on more federal stimulus money.

Aired: May 18, 2020 | Transcript

San Diego Unified School District is putting together a plan for reopening its schools this fall that includes putting a nurse on every campus and cutting class sizes in half to ensure social distancing. But the plan won’t leave the drawing board unless the federal government steps in.

That’s because Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday announced his revised budget, which cuts $19 billion from the state’s education budget over the next two years. San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest school district, stands to endure tens of millions in cuts under the governor’s proposal.

Newsom was quick to call for help from Washington D.C.

“If the federal government does what it must do under the circumstances to help states large and small across the nation, these cuts would go away,” Newsom said on Thursday.

Reported by John Carroll , Video by Amal Younis

Thursday’s budget revisions show just how much damage the coronavirus pandemic had done to the state’s finances. In January, Newsom was unveiling ambitious plans for universal preschool and investing more in special education.

“The overwhelming majority of those proposals we are now pulling back,” Newsom said. “Those are enhancements to the baseline budget.”

Just four months later, the second draft of the state’s budget doesn’t provide enough for schools to safely reopen, according to San Diego Unified School Board Member Richard Barrera.

Barrera said the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus bill proposed by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, would provide the district the funding it needs to execute its reopening strategy. But the bill won’t make it through the Republican-held Senate in its current form and President Trump has already issued a veto threat.

If San Diego Unified were to receive the approximately $250 million that the HEROES ACT offers the district, it would have enough to execute a safe reopening, Barrera said. Schools would open as scheduled in the fall and possibly earlier for vulnerable student groups who need more time to make up learning.

“For us, we’re in a position where we’re ready to go with a reopening plan that works for students and continues online distance learning for students or parents who are not comfortable with going back to school yet,” he said. “But we can’t do that until the federal government acts.”

San Diego Unified was already preparing to make about $84 million in cuts before the pandemic struck. Since schools closed in March, the district has spent about $19 million covering the cost of wireless internet hotspots and training teachers in distance learning.

Barrera painted a dire picture in the event the hoped-for funding doesn’t come.

“It’s very unlikely that we could physically reopen at any point during the year,” Barrera said. “More students will fall behind. More students will experience stress and anxiety.”

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Joe Hong

Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.