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San Diego Unified Board Pledges Balanced Budget, No Layoffs

San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten is shown smiling on Jan. 13, 2015.
Matthew Bowler
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten is shown smiling on Jan. 13, 2015.

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education vowed Tuesday night to balance the budget, reduce class sizes and fund other classroom priorities for the 2015-16 academic year without laying off employees or selling property, although the specifics are still in the works.

School districts submit their budgets each June, but must decide by mid- March whether they can still afford to keep all their teachers and other staffers.

Board President Marne Foster and Trustee John Lee Evans said the cycle of sending out pink slips before the budget is adopted can cause unnecessary shakeups because they are often rescinded — sometimes after those employees have accepted other jobs.


"We've had all these problems in the last few years because we've had to make budget decisions early in the year, in January or February, without knowing what our budget would be in June," Evans said.

"In some cases, we were in this horrible situation of having to give out layoff notices as a safeguard in case enough money didn't come in."

Superintendent Cindy Marten will now have to come up with a plan to fulfill an ambitious pledge to reduce class sizes, ramp up counseling support and services for students who are learning English without reducing staff or using proceeds from real estate sales as the district has in past years.

Marten outlined her budget priorities around the same time Gov. Jerry Brown released his state budget proposal, which reflected more money for schools.

Around $23.6 million could potentially go to the San Diego Unified School District to implement the Local Control Funding Formula, according to district financial officials.


Brown's proposed spending plan also included $1.1 billion in one-time discretionary grants designed to offset state debts owed to school districts, around $19 million of which San Diego Unified could potentially recoup next year.

Although funding has increased, expenses such as retirement contributions have also gone up.

At a previous meeting district financial staffers said the district is expected to fall $18 million to $30 million short of what was needed to fund every item on Marten's list of budget priorities.

The board asked Marten to come back sometime in the next few weeks with a more detailed plan on how the district's priorities could be covered with the funds available.

Also at Tuesday night's meeting, the board voted to drop computer proficiency as a graduation requirement, effective with the Class of 2016, because it is not required by the state.

The district will also expand upon alternative or non-traditional ways to meet other graduation requirements such as supervised work experience, career technical education classes or demonstrating grade level proficiency in a language other than English.