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San Diego Unified Avoids Layoffs Thanks To Federal Stimulus, But More Help Needed

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.
Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

San Diego County school districts are set to receive about $390 million from the stimulus package Congress passed at the end of 2020, according to an analysis by the news outlet EdSource.

San Diego Unified School District, the county’s largest district, will receive about $128 million in federal aid, but the district will need even more money if it wants to heal the academic wounds caused by distance learning, said Richard Barrera, vice president of the San Diego Unified School Board.

San Diego Unified Avoids Layoffs Thanks To Federal Stimulus, But More Help Needed
Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done at the federal and state level to get schools the resources that we’ll need over the course of the next couple years,” Barrera said.

Specifically, he said, the district will need to fund an extended summer school in 2021, hire more mental health professionals and shrink class sizes for the next several school years in order to remedy the long-term impacts of the pandemic on students.

That said, this latest surge of federal aid will help avoid a more immediate disaster of staff layoffs.

“That’s critically important,” said Barrera. “The people working so hard to educate our kids right now, the last thing we need to do is give them a sense of anxiety that they may not have their jobs going into next year.”

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Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of the Bay Area-based think tank Education Trust-West, agreed with Barrera that additional rounds of federal funding are needed. She said the federal government has an opportunity to fund services that would address the pre-existing inequities in education that the pandemic has exacerbated.

This means providing more money to districts with large populations of students of color, English learners and students from low-income families.

“We owe it to students and to parents and to families to actually use this as a moment where we accelerate student learning,” Arrillaga said. “We have an opportunity to do that."

Video: San Diego County Schools Will Use Federal Aid To Stay Afloat